A Floating Village

February 23, 2012 Cambodia 10 Comments 19,242 Views

Floating Villages At Tonle Sap Lake In Cambodia.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about magical Angkor Wat and why I find it so fascinating. The temple region itself is totally amazing but what I really find fascinating is the great diversity of the area around Siem Reap.

Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and of great importance to Cambodia. It’s a bit more unusual than “normal” lakes: Its flow changes direction twice a year and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. This is why entire villages are dismantled due to the season and the waterline of the lake. Therefore most villages around the Great Lake have adjusted by living in so called “floating villages” on boats. They are home to a large Vietnamese & Cham community and they managed to adapt very well to the lake’s seasonal changes.

So, whether it’s the school or rubbish dump, living room or local store – the boat it not only the main transport system but also the grounding for every resident.

Chong Khneas is the name of famous floating village at the edge of the lake. It takes a 30-minute-car-ride  from Siem Reap to the boat dock where boats wait for visitors any given time of the day. The boat trip through the floating village takes approximately two hours. Be aware though, it’s total rip off! I’d never ever do it again, since this really is the worse I have ever experienced! Back when we visited the first time (over 10 years ago), the area wasn’t owned by a private company like today, therefore the floating village was still unique…sad to see what happened to this place!

Family life on Tonle Sap Lake. Five provinces circled the area of Tonle Sap Lake, more than three million of population inhabited around the bank of the Lake and 90% of them earn a living by catching fish and making agricultures.
Family life on Tonle Sap Lake. Five provinces circled the area of Tonle Sap Lake, more than three million of population inhabited around the bank of the Lake and 90% of them earn a living by catching fish and making agricultures.
Tonle Sap Lake is also an important commercial resource, providing more than half of the fish consumed in Cambodia.
Tonle Sap Lake is also an important commercial resource, providing more than half of the fish consumed in Cambodia.
Chong Khneas is the name of famous floating village at the edge of the lake. It locates at Southern part of Siem Reap town about 15 Km, and takes only 30 minutes by vehicles to the boat dock where there are always boats waiting for visitors. The boat trip through the floating village takes approximately two hours. Be aware, it's TOTAL RIP OFF!
Chong Khneas is the name of famous floating village at the edge of the lake. It locates at Southern part of Siem Reap town about 15 Km, and takes only 30 minutes by vehicles to the boat dock where there are always boats waiting for visitors. The boat trip through the floating village takes approximately two hours. Be aware, it’s TOTAL RIP OFF!
During rainy season from June to October, Tonle Sap Lake is filled by water flowing from the Mekong with 14 m in depth and expands the surface of 10.000 km2.
During rainy season from June to October, Tonle Sap Lake is filled by water flowing from the Mekong with 14 m in depth and expands the surface of 10.000 km2.
In dry season from November to May the size of Tonle Sap lake is 3.000 km2 with two meters in depth and water flows out from the Lake to the Mekong, in and out flowing is the natural phenomenon occurrences.
In dry season from November to May the size of Tonle Sap lake is 3.000 km2 with two meters in depth and water flows out from the Lake to the Mekong, in and out flowing is the natural phenomenon occurrences.
Chong Khneas, was before very interesting, but now region is owned by private firm they did increasing prices and the area looks more commercial.
Chong Khneas was very interesting before, but now region is owned by private firm they increased the prices and the area looks very commercial.
The boat trip usually includes two stops: one at a touristy floating 'fish and bird exhibition' with a souvenir and snack shop, and the other at the Gecko Environment Centre, which offers displays and information introducing the ecology and biodiversity of the lake area.
The boat trip usually includes two stops: one at a touristy floating ‘fish and bird exhibition’ with a souvenir and snack shop, and the other at the Gecko Environment Centre, which offers displays and information introducing the ecology and biodiversity of the lake area.
During our first visit to TOnle Sap lake (over ten years ago), the floating village was still a really impressive sight. Today, it's just a another tourist trap.
During our first visit to Tonle Sap lake (over ten years ago), the floating village was still a really impressive sight. Today, it’s just a another tourist trap.
Unlike much of the Cambodian job opportunities, the income is also reliable, but life on the water is difficult. Fishermen sometimes travel two days to reach the middle of the lake and spend up to a week at a time out fishing. Large waves, limited food and dangerous conditions take their toll. The life expectancy of a fisherman is 54 years.
Unlike much of the Cambodian job opportunities, the income is also reliable, but life on the water is difficult. Fishermen sometimes travel two days to reach the middle of the lake and spend up to a week at a time out fishing. Large waves, limited food and dangerous conditions take their toll. The life expectancy of a fisherman is 54 years.
Because the water levels of Tonle Sap Lake differ so drastically in dry and rainy season, fishing families who make their living on the lake began living in floating villages which move with the changing water levels.
Because the water levels of Tonle Sap Lake differ so drastically in dry and rainy season, fishing families who make their living on the lake began living in floating villages which move with the changing water levels.
Tonle Sap Lake is so big, it can easily be mistaken for the ocean.
Tonle Sap Lake is so big, it can easily be mistaken for the ocean.
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10 Comments

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“Floating Villages At Tonle Sap Lake In Cambodia.”

  1. Really wonderful post with amazing photos! Thanks for sharing them :)

  2. Thanks so much Rudi! We have thousands of photos of our trip to Angkor and Tonle Sap lake, so it was hard to chose so few ;) Glad you like them!

  3. This is a fantastic post! When I was traveling around S.E. Asia, I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to visit Cambodia. Wonderful photos!

  4. Thanks Savannah! If you get the chance to travel to Cambodia some day, you should. It’s really a fantastic place … but there are so many of those and one life is far too short to see them all :)

  5. Wow, this is quite an eyeopener. Imagine what life what be like if we had to row ourselves around to get to places. It’s a totally different world. Your pictures explain so much. :)

  6. True, that would be quite something.
    My first time in Venice made me think about a life like that … It works for a lot of people I guess – as long as you’re not seasick :)

  7. Nisa, i will be touring Vietnam and Cambodia in December-2013, a “SOLO -BACKPACKERS” tour.Your brief tour blog is of help to my research of the tour.Thanks.

  8. anon

    I visited the floating villages at Tonle Sap over Christmas and New year a few weeks ago… I was impressed with the visuals for all my photography but was sensing something else was underlying here… A guide that is a school teacher as his main job told me that it was known as a Ghetto on water…. most of its inhabitants are Vietnamese and the local Cambodian residents do not see them as welcome residents. Illegal fishing practises have led to diminishing fish levels in the lake and open sewage flows into the area also. The tours often do a fleeting rush through the villages then traffic the tourists to other venues outside the villages… so nobody there gets any tour trade other than the “operators”…. Be wary.

  9. Nisa

    Hey Anon!
    Thanks for your comment! I totally hear you and know what you mean. Unfortunately the place is not as “nice” as it seems…in the last decade, things really have changes a lot. We were there about 10 years ago and back then, land was not owned by a private company, therefore life was a bit more “real” back then. Today, you have to travel to other parts of Tonle Sap Lake for an authentic floating village…
    Best, Nisa

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