Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia is one of the largest and richest fishing lake in the world. It serves as the home, source of food and livelihood for countless Cambodians. During the dry season, the lake drains into the great Mekong river. And during wet season (normally starting June), the lake expands by four times its size. Once it becomes a massive lake, it provides a perfect breeding ground for fish and birds. It is home not only to wildlife but also to vast communities that residing in floating villages and stilted homes.
There are three main floating village dwelling in the magnificent Tonle Sap lake which are open to visitors: the Chong Kneas, Kampong Phluk and the community of Kompong Khleang. The last time I was in Siem Reap, I was able to visit Chong Kneas. It is nearer to Siem Reap and therefore received a significantly larger number of tourists among other floating village. This time I visited Kompong Khleang, the least visited and most remote of the three villages. It is 40 km from Siem Reap and located on the northern side of the lake and it is 10 times the size of Chong Kneas.
I joined Tara River Boat Tours for a half-day tour to Kompong Khleang. Tara Boat is one of the main boat tours operators offering tour packages in Tonle Sap. Some of the tours they offer include Chong Kneas, Kapong Phluk, Kompong Khleang, Preak Toal Bird Sanctuary and the sunset cruise in Tonle Sap Lake. The tour start at 8 am where Mr. Soupond, our English speaking local guide pick us up in our guesthouse and lead us to an air conditioned van. We proceed up route #6 to Kompong Khleang. Along the way I noticed that most of the stilt houses in the village along the lake is rising approximately 10 meters above water level. Our tour guide told us that there is a need to build these houses this high to stay above water level during the wet season. Given that, the village is not possible to reach by road so getting to Kompong Khleang would require more travel over water.
As we drove towards the lake, we stopped and explored the fishing community of Kompong Khleang where we find a market used by local villagers. I was able to see a glimpse on how they live here and how they produce their main livelihood.
I noticed that life here is very active, the entire village is busy in making dried fish, smoked fish and the fermented fish paste locally known as “Prahoc”.
One of the activities included in the tour is to meet the school teachers and students and give school supplies to the floating school. The stationary and supplies was provided by Tara Riverboat, it is their way of supporting the local village school. But due to the celebration of chinese new year, there’s no classes on the time we visited them so we’re not able to meet the teachers and students but still we are able to give the school supplies to the local kids of the community.
Both the old and young villagers here are extremely friendly.
After wandering around the village, we proceed over along the causeway to the edge of Tonle Sap lake. We then rode to the boat exclusive for Tara Riverboat to witness the life of the locals floating around the khleang river and up to the flooded forest.
Crocodile Farm in Kompong Khleang
Before our tour ended, we then had a lunch at a local restaurant near the village and enjoy the khmer food they served.
If you happen to visit Siem Reap, I would recommend that you visit any of the floating village. It was such a humbling experience.. The people I’ve met, passing the local villages and seeing part of the real Cambodian life is truly a wonderful memories to keep. It was a day I will never forget.
Editor’s Note: This trip has been made possible by Tara Boat.