In December we took our first trip to Cambodia. We spent 10 days in the Siem Reap area which is known for the famous ancient temples and ruins at Angkor Wat. There are a lot of other things to see and do besides temples. A few museums, a waterfall and silk ‘farms’ are available to visit for a change of pace. The one that sounded the most interesting was out on Tonle Sap Lake; a floating village. We decided to visit the floating village which is also quite popular with tourists. The idea intrigued me and I was curious what it would be like. I pictured houses floating similarly to boats, but somehow anchored in place. We decided this would be worth seeing, something different and more unusual than anything we have ever visited before.
There are a few places where you can go and see some of the floating villages. The place our tour driver, Rak, recommended was a little further from the city. He felt it was less touristy and crowded. It was $25/person for the trip which included the price of our driver and the entrance/boat for about 1 hour. It was a short drive on main roads through the city . Next we drove through more open country that reminded me of the wide open spaces back home. Once we turned off the main road it slowly turned into a dirt road, sometimes littered with potholes. Seeing Tuk Tuks bump along in the dust made us very happy we had a comfortable car. The road here isn’t paved since the lake floods each year and the road is under water for a long period of time. The dry season runs from November to May and the lake will be as small as 2,700KM2 and it can swell as large as 16,000KM2. Due to this natural phenomenon the inhabitants have constructed their houses on tall poles made from tree trunks. This would be something to see.
We parked the car and Rak hired us a boat and we were led away. We had the boat to ourselves which was a nice surprise. We started off slowly going along a narrow passage for what seemed like a long time. There wasn’t a lot to see other than some trees that were partly under water. Eventually we started to see some of the houses on stilts. As we rounded a corner the village came into view. Houses varied from those in bright colours, to pale peeling paint, to simpler ones in plain wood or what looked like woven palm leaves or reeds. The locals went about their daily business in small boats. We saw some children going off to school while others stayed home and helped pick small fish out of fishing nets. We continued on passing more and more, which was hard to take it all in.
After about 30 minutes we docked and were asked to get off our boat. Another tour through the mangrove was offered for an additional $5 in smaller boats. We decided against this part and continued on our journey. After this stop there was another place to stop and eat and a large temple, but our driver pushed on. We eventually reached the open lake and our driver stopped our boat. We weren’t sure of the purpose since there was nothing to see. We were like sitting ducks and soon women in small boats approached us, With limited English they tried to sell us unappealing snacks and other items. When we said no thank you they said to buy some to give to the villagers. Again we declined and our driver returned us the way we came.
Back on shore we watched some of the locals in temporary houses, simple shacks, where they sold some food to passing tourists and other local workers. Nearby there were a lot of rice patties and in small shallow sections of the river men wade chest deep and cast large nets to catch small fish. After watching a few minutes we returned to the car and back to the city.
I took a lot of photos, but it was hard to get the best shots as we were always moving. Sometimes I wish we could have also got up closer to have a better look.
This is a part of a series on our trip to Siem Reap. Missed the other posts about Cambodia? Check them out by following the links below:
- Angkor Wat Awe & Wonder
- Angkor Thom: Awe & Wonder
- Ta Prohm : Awe & Wonder
- Windows & Surprise -Weekly Photo Challenge
Stay tuned …