Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap, Cambodia || The not-really-floating village



Just like the stationary items, by the end of the day, we too were back at where we had started. It was time to get off the boat and head back to the glitter of Siem Reap. If you ask me about Tonle Sap, I would say that this is a place that could be much more beautiful, if the Cambodian Government would invest a little in its maintenance and upkeep.

Floating villages are the second most popular tourist attraction near Siem Reap, Cambodia; top-most being Angkor Wat. The trip to the floating villages starts in the afternoon and you are back only after sunset. The villages are located about at about 1 hour drive from Siem Reap City, on the Tonle Sap lake and river network.


Floating villages are the second most popular tourist attraction near Siem Reap, Cambodia; top-most being Angkor Wat. The trip to the floating villages starts in the afternoon and you are back only after sunset. The villages are located about at about 1 hour drive from Siem Reap City, on the Tonle Sap lake and river network.

There are four popular floating villages on Tonle Sap - Chong khneas, Kampong Phluk, Kampong Khleang, and Prek Toal. Of these, Chong Khneas is the most popular. It really is a floating village in wet season with the houses floating on water. Kampong Khleang has both floating and stilted houses. Prek Toal is smallest of these.  

There are four popular floating villages on Tonle Sap - Chong khneas, Kampong Phluk, Kampong Khleang, and Prek Toal. Of these, Chong Khneas is the most popular. It really is a floating village in wet season with the houses floating on water. Kampong Khleang has both floating and stilted houses. Prek Toal is smallest of these.
Kampong Phluk does not have floating houses. The houses here are stilted. However, in the wet season when the water rises, these houses too seem as if they are floating on the water, though they are not. This was the village we visited.




Kampong Phluk does not have floating houses. The houses here are stilted. However, in the wet season when the water rises, these houses too seem as if they are floating on the water, though they are not. This was the village we visited.
Boats are the most common mode of commutation here. Locals too rely heavily on boats to travel within the village too. People here are all experts in steering the boats with long bamboo sticks. Children too seem unafraid of the water.


Boats are the most common mode of commutation here. Locals too rely heavily on boats to travel within the village too. People here are all experts in steering the boats with long bamboo sticks. Children too seem unafraid of the water.
The boats come in various shapes and sizes. You will see them racing through the water, trying to overtake each other, rocking the smaller boats close by. You will see them parked on the banks of Tonle Sap. They are to these villages, what bikes are to Phnom Penh.


The boats come in various shapes and sizes. You will see them racing through the water, trying to overtake each other, rocking the smaller boats close by. You will see them parked on the banks of Tonle Sap. They are to these villages, what bikes are to Phnom Penh.
These are the stilted houses. They stand really tall. In the dry season it is hard to believe that the water could ever reach their floor. But apparently this does happen in the wet season. Some of the houses were really pretty. Others were shabby.




These are the stilted houses. They stand really tall. In the dry season it is hard to believe that the water could ever reach their floor. But apparently this does happen in the wet season. Some of the houses were really pretty. Others were shabby.
Even the offices and schools stand on stilts. I am unable to imagine living in such houses. For everything, one needs to climb down a rickety, steep staircases, which look downright dangerous. But I guess this is the way of life for them. Many things that we do would probably seem strange to them.


Even the offices and schools stand on stilts. I am unable to imagine living in such houses. For everything, one needs to climb down a rickety, steep staircases, which look downright dangerous. But I guess this is the way of life for them. Many things that we do would probably seem strange to them.
There were shops on the boats too. Life,as unusual as it seemed, went about normally. Children could be seen sitting and chatting, climbing up and down on the boats. Women could be seen setting shops and going about their business.


There were shops on the boats too. Life,as unusual as it seemed, went about normally. Children could be seen sitting and chatting, climbing up and down on the boats. Women could be seen setting shops and going about their business.
At places, the houses were sparse and surrounded with water and rice fields. People could be seen wading through the water, fishing and farming. Many of the houses were in the need of repair and repainting. However, if you look closely, you could make out that the houses were originally painted in bright colors.


At places, the houses were sparse and surrounded with water and rice fields. People could be seen wading through the water, fishing and farming. Many of the houses were in the need of repair and repainting. However, if you look closely, you could make out that the houses were originally painted in bright colors.
You could also see little crocodile farms floating close to the houses. This was alarming. I kept wondering whether any crocodiles have ever escaped these. With the mangroves all around, they would have plenty of places to hide in. And plenty of prey around too. 


You could also see little crocodile farms floating close to the houses. This was alarming. I kept wondering whether any crocodiles have ever escaped these. With the mangroves all around, they would have plenty of places to hide in. And plenty of prey around too.    Contrary to our first instinctive thought, these crocodiles aren't bred for their meat. Instead, they are raised for their skins. Crocodile skin bags and shoes are very popular. In fact, Cambodia sees this as an excellent export opportunity.

Contrary to our first instinctive thought, these crocodiles aren't bred for their meat. Instead, they are raised for their skins. Crocodile skin bags and shoes are very popular. In fact, Cambodia sees this as an excellent export opportunity.

 In the photograph above, the smaller structure floating on the bottom right corner of the above photograph is a crocodile farm. A small one. The real structure is beneath the surface and that is where the crocs are.


 In the photograph above, the smaller structure floating on the bottom right corner of the above photograph is a crocodile farm. A small one. The real structure is beneath the surface and that is where the crocs are.
These houses form stark shapes against the sky. Cambodia being a tropical country, the sky is often quite dramatic. Together, they offer great photo opportunities, which we took full advantage of. However, the boats travel too fast and if you are serious about photographing these houses properly, a boat tour is not enough. You should plan a longer stay here. 

These houses form stark shapes against the sky. Cambodia being a tropical country, the sky is often quite dramatic. Together, they offer great photo opportunities, which we took full advantage of. However, the boats travel too fast and if you are serious about photographing these houses properly, a boat tour is not enough. You should plan a longer stay here.
People here are very photogenic too. For someone passionate enough, their personas and their unique way of life would be worth chronicling. It is so fascinating that what would be the regular routine for someone, may be something completely alien for someone else. And one doesn't need to be separated by oceans for such differences to occur. Neighbours in the same housing society may have completely different lifestyles. Despite this, when we see a community, we tend to believe that the lifestyle of one individual can represent the lifestyle of an entire community. 


People here are very photogenic too. For someone passionate enough, their personas and their unique way of life would be worth chronicling. It is so fascinating that what would be the regular routine for someone, may be something completely alien for someone else. And one doesn't need to be separated by oceans for such differences to occur. Neighbours in the same housing society may have completely different lifestyles. Despite this, when we see a community, we tend to believe that the lifestyle of one individual can represent the lifestyle of an entire community.
Unfortunately we did not have enough time to speak to any of the locals. Language was also a barrier, as we did not know Khmer beyond a few words of greetings, and the locals only knew enough English to be able to sell their products.

Unfortunately we did not have enough time to speak to any of the locals. Language was also a barrier, as we did not know Khmer beyond a few words of greetings, and the locals only knew enough English to be able to sell their products.
The sights on the banks of the lake were interesting too. There were a few official looking buildings that stand out amid the surrounding homes. In general, they are better maintained than the private homes. Throughout the boat ride I was wondering how much more beautiful this place would be if all the houses were as brightly painted and well maintained as these buildings. Since this is such a good tourist attraction, wouldn't it be great if the government could help maintain the other buildings as well. 

The sights on the banks of the lake were interesting too. There were a few official looking buildings that stand out amid the surrounding homes. In general, they are better maintained than the private homes. Throughout the boat ride I was wondering how much more beautiful this place would be if all the houses were as brightly painted and well maintained as these buildings. Since this is such a good tourist attraction, wouldn't it be great if the government could help maintain the other buildings as well.
We floated past the stilted homes to the very center of the Tonle Sap lake. The lake was so huge that we could not see the banks in any direction. It was like being in the middle of the sea. This is where they anchored the boat so that we could witness the magical sunset. The sky changed colors gradually as one boat after another came and anchored around us. Their silhouettes gave our photographs depth and perspective. 

We floated past the stilted homes to the very center of the Tonle Sap lake. The lake was so huge that we could not see the banks in any direction. It was like being in the middle of the sea. This is where they anchored the boat so that we could witness the magical sunset. The sky changed colors gradually as one boat after another came and anchored around us. Their silhouettes gave our photographs depth and perspective.
As soon as the sun dipped beneath the horizon, our boat turned back to return to the stilted houses. It was still pretty light and we had one more stop. By now, we had had our fill of the stilted houses and didn't really mind when our boats raced past them.

Our last stop was at one of these stilted villages. Here we saw some white Americans distributing pencils and other stationary items to the village kids. It was then that we remembered that the shopkeepers in the mangrove forest had tried to convince us to buy these to distribute them among the village kids. We realized that the same stationary keeps circulating from the kids to the shopkeepers to the foreigners. This is a business model, but if it keeps a few people fed, what's the harm? Without actually understanding what goes on behind the curtains, it is difficult to say whether this should be promoted or not.
Our last stop was at one of these stilted villages. Here we saw some white Americans distributing pencils and other stationary items to the village kids. It was then that we remembered that the shopkeepers in the mangrove forest had tried to convince us to buy these to distribute them among the village kids. We realized that the same stationary keeps circulating from the kids to the shopkeepers to the foreigners. This is a business model, but if it keeps a few people fed, what's the harm? Without actually understanding what goes on behind the curtains, it is difficult to say whether this should be promoted or not.

Just like the stationary items, by the end of the day, we too were back at where we had started. It was time to get off the boat and head back to the glitter of Siem Reap. If you ask me about Tonle Sap, I would say that this is a place that could be much more beautiful, if the Cambodian Government would invest a little in its maintenance and upkeep.
Just like the stationary items, by the end of the day, we too were back at where we had started. It was time to get off the boat and head back to the glitter of Siem Reap. If you ask me about Tonle Sap, I would say that this is a place that could be much more beautiful, if the Cambodian Government would invest a little in its maintenance and upkeep.

If you liked this post and found it helpful, I would request you to follow these things when traveling -


  1. Manage your waste well and don’t litter
  2. Use dustbins. Tell us if you went to a place and found it hard to locate a dustbin.
  3. Avoid bottle waters in hills. Usually you get clean water in hills and water bottles create lot of mess in our ecosystem.
  4. Say big no to plastic and avoid those unhealthy snacks packed in plastic bags. Rather buy fruits.
  5. Don't play loud blaring music in forests of jungle camps. You are a guest in that ecosystem and disturbing the locals (humans and animals) is not polite

Comments

d Nambiar said…
That sure was an interesting experience.
Homes, offices, even schools on stilts. Wow!

Those are unique crocodile farms. Scary tho'
Thank you so much for this post, VJ. I thoroughly enjoyed it. :)

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