All photos © Ruud Leeuw



Visit Floating Village on Tonlé Sap


Visit Floating Village
During the morning we'd done a visit to the Angkor temples and after lunch we continued to the 'Floating Village' Chong Khneas (a.k.a. Kneas) on Tonlé Sap lake. Here are some impressions on the road from Siem Reap to the lake, which took us some 20 - 30 minutes (by tuk-tuk).

Visit Floating Village

Visit Floating Village
Houses on stilts, for the flooding will come again and all that is seen as land will turn to water.


One can see the effect of the dry season, the water level sits low. And the large tour groups haven't shown up either yet.
Which also meant that the beggers hadn't shown up either. Nice.

The Tonlé Sap (‘Large Fresh Water River’, but more commonly translated as ‘Great Lake’) is a combined lake and river system of major importance to Cambodia.
The Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997.

The Tonlé Sap is unusual for two reasons: its flow changes direction twice a year, and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons.
From November to May, Cambodia's dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, when the year's heavy rains begin in June, the Tonlé Sap backs up to form an enormous lake.
The Tonlé Sap Lake is linked to the sea via the Tonlé Sap River, which converges with the massive Mekong River in Phnom Penh.



Visit Floating Village
Motoring away from the dock, seen in the distance.
We had the entire boat to ourselves, our tuk-tuk driver went along too.

Visit Floating Village
Cambodian flag flying proudly.

Visit Floating Village
The boats vary in size but little in shape; the keel is flat and propulsion comes from a propellor close to the surface. The engine is noisy.

Visit Floating Village
Fishing is done in the shallow water by throwing a net.
The rhythm of the lake defines the rhythm of the culture.
The vast majority in the Tonlé Sap area lives in poverty;
livelihoods depend solely on the resources that the lake has to offer. Such tourists.

Visit Floating Village
There is plenty to see & enjoy while passing through the canal.

Visit Floating Village
Some pass in great haste and urgency, billowing exhaust fumes; protocol insists passing with less power so people won't get splahed with the muddy river water, but some apply power while not fully overtaken. Be alert!

Visit Floating Village
The banks of the canal are muddy and without reinforcements; Mother Nature will have its way and the people have adapted in terms of using boats with shallow keels, but that is as far as 'human engineering' has been applied here.

Visit Floating Village
Exchanging a salute. The sun was burning down and it was hot, even on the water.

Visit Floating Village

Visit Floating Village
The boats for tourists have a sunroof. Boats pass close to each other to minimize rocking by the waves, which makes good sense as the shallow keels have a feel of instability all the time.





Visit Floating Village
And so we arrived at the Floating Village of Chong Khneas. It was quiet but that little feller had noticed our arrival.
I have read that the village nearly 'drowns' of touristy things and has lost its character of a fishing village, but when we visited during the early afternoon it was very quiet and showed little of both. I thought it quite enchanting.

Visit Floating Village
Being approached in case we needed some grocery shopping.

Chong Kneas floating village in Cambodia.

Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, providing livelihoods for over 10% of Cambodia’s population. Its water level varies considerably and the inhabitants of six of the seven villages at Chong Kneas live in houseboats that need to be moved with the changing levels.
As with other fishing communities in the flooded area of the Tonle Sap, the way of life for the 5,000 or so inhabitants is strongly tied to the seasonal rise and fall of water. In the dry season, the floating villages anchor in a small inlet at the edge of the lake, where there is ready access to fishing grounds and some protection from storms and waves.

The area is home to many ethnic Siamese (Thai) and to a large Vietnamese and Cham community. Some members of the floating population were once farmers who fled to the lake in the 1970s when they lost their land during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror.
Others, many of Vietnamese origin, have been there much longer and have known no other life.

For the residents of the floating villages of Chong Kneas, life on the water is not a cultural tradition that people cherish and wish to preserve.
When the villagers were consulted about their living conditions, they said that they would prefer to live on the land and have access to clean water and sanitation as well as have their children go to proper schools instead of the poorly maintained floating school...
[Source: ]


Visit Floating Village
Suddenly a boat approached and made a slick turn besides out boat; a girl held up a water snake, saw me taking a photo, her mother (?) driving the boast didn't waste time: steered her boat against hours, a one dollar note exchanged hands and she circled away, blasting off full power to take up position for the next tourist hauling boat.
The whole manoeuvre didn't take more than two minutes.
The girl should have been in school of course, but it is easy to judge, while we live our Western lives with social benefits and pension plans.

Visit Floating Village
The water thick as chocolate.

Visit Floating Village
This excursion was one big photo opportunity for us. Travel is that, as well as one big learning opportunity.



Visit Floating Village
We made for a restaurant, we didn't ask for it but understood how these things go and went along.

Visit Floating Village
The restaurant kept some fierce pets, for entertainment of tourist I expect.

Visit Floating Village
Funniest thing: while I stood looking at the crocodiles, I noticed that kid
standing next to me. I ignored him more or less as I expected he was begging
for a hand out; he didn't say anything, just stood there. I took a photo without
looking through the viewfinder and kept looking away. Only when I checked my
camera in the hotel I noticed he'd been walking around with a water snake wrapped
around his neck.

Visit Floating Village
We left the restaurant, stepped back into the boat. I heard a strange language behind me and looked around. A woman was holding up a baby, which I guessed was a method of begging; gave her a dollar. Our tuk-tuk driver, with the little English he mastered, explained that this village housed a lot of refugees from Vietnam.
Hence the strange vowels I heard, that had been Vietnamese, not Cambodian.
I realize there will be people objecting to me handing out one dollar notes left and right (not!), but when I take, (emphasizing 'take') a photo from so close as this, I pay for it when asked.

Visit Floating Village
From the expression on their faces you can see they are shocked and perhaps don't understand. They didn't pay.




Visit Floating Village
Time to head back.

Visit Floating Village

While we were pleased with this afternoon excursion, so near to Siem Reap, and would visit another 'Floating Village' later (Kompong Phluk), I learned when I got back home that there is a third option: Kompong Khleang - home of about 1800 families, more or less 6000 people altogether, with stilt houses as far as the eye can see and 3 pagodas. Might be something to consider for a next visit.

Visit Floating Village
A bigger boat speeding past.

Visit Floating Village
Same manoeuvre: kid with a water snake around his shoulders hopes someone takes a photo. Most people seem to ignore him. The litle kid remains vast asleep in the boat, which is a small miracle considering the noise these boats make!

Visit Floating Village
It is big fun to see the different types of boats passing in the canal.




Visit Floating Village
Approaching the dock, the river banks get higher; the people seen there have probably been fishing with their nets.

Visit Floating Village
Back in the tuk-tuk, speeding towards Siem Reap, on the dusty road.

Visit Floating Village
There are definitely more modern, more mundane building styles to be noticed. Signs of progress and improvements.

Visit Floating Village
A sad sight: these kids should be at school instead of sifting through the rubbish for something to trade or sell.

Visit Floating Village
During the wet season this area will all be flooded; I'd almost wish to see it as such but expect the roads will suffer too, getting slippery and washed out.

Visit Floating Village
We've reached the outskirts of Siem Reap and will soon be able to enjoy the cooling comforts of our hotel room.
Living the life of the privileged.


External LINKS:
Chong Kneas on
Tonlé Sap on Wikipedia
Tonle Sap Lake and the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary




BANGKOK 3-2013, a start





Page compiled/updated: 01-Jun-2013 / 02-Jun-2013