printable version tonle sap village and floating village  

Located about 25 minutes away from Siem Reap city, by Remork (Tuk-tuk), the Tonle Sap Lake is one of the non-temple related places of interest near Siem Reap city (approximately 15 kilometers/10 miles south of the city center). Foreign tourists are commonly seen around this lake for visiting the floating village of Chong Kneas or after arriving from Phnom Penh by boat.

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Tonle Sap lake is the biggest fresh water lake in southeast Asia by size. However, its size changes significantly throughout the year. During the wet season (more about Cambodia’s seasons here) it measures more than 10,000 sq. kilometers (3,860 sq. miles), while during the dry season it shrinks to about 3,000 sq. kilometers (1,160 sq. miles).

There are floating houses, restaurants (Khmer and Korean dishes), churches, markets, a billiard house, schools, souvenir shops, a floating police station, a floating crocodile farm, or even “floating” dogs and pigs!

Each floating house, which is interesting to be observed, can accommodate up to 12 people (one family). More than 10,000 Cambodians live on the lake alongside with more than 100,000 (Cambodian) Vietnamese here.

best month to visit the lake is usually sometime around March-April. One reason for this is that during this period the lake size shrinks; consequently the people who live on the lake will move further towards the center of the lake. When this happens, they will live close to each other, therefore tourists will see more easily the life of the floating village. (While during wet season people tend to live close to the ground due to high waves).

Another reason is because Siem Reap river, one of the rivers that flows to the lake, becomes drier. When this happens, the locals plant rice along the river banks. A road (about 3.5 kilometers/2.17 miles long) from the mainland to a nearby pagoda becomes visible (It “disappears” during the wet season).

During the wet season, things are changed dramatically. The water level rises by about 3 meters. Trees that are visible during the dry season disappear under the water. High waves can be expected, making the locals move their floating houses towards the land, thus visitors will see less “floating village” during this season (around May till October).

Foreign tourists need to buy their tickets if they would like to tour around the Lake, which cost
US$ 25 per person. Tickets are available at the port.

After purchasing the tickets, tourists will go directly to the boats. The boats are usually rented from associations and driven by the locals. You will also have a guide, who will expect some tips from you once you finish your tour.

The tour itself will take
about 1.5 hours. It usually consists of a visit to the lake, a sail along the floating houses, a stop at a floating restaurant/souvenir shop and might include a short visit to a floating school, where visitors might be asked if they would like to donate books or pencils to the local students – these can be purchased from a small local floating shop nearby.

One thing to keep in mind here; if you would like to go to the toilets, don’t be surprised if you see the water right below you.

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