Tonle Sap Lake is a combined lake and river system in Cambodia. It is also known as the 'Great Lake' for reasons that it is the largest fresh water lake in Southeast Asia and the richest fishing lake in the World.
Tonle Sap Lake
It is a exceptional ecological hotspot that has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere. Depend on the season, the lake itself expands and shrinks by four times its size. Its flow changes direction twice per year. During the dry season, the lake drains into the Mekong river at Pnom Penh. And during the monsoon season (starting June), it grows from approximately 2,700 square km to 16,000 square km. Once it become an enormous lake, it provides a perfect breeding ground for fish and birds.
Tonle Sap Port
Some area of the lake has become a home to many Khmers and ethnic Vietnamese, living in self contained floating village. There were floating stores for purchasing day-to-day needs. A floating school for the children of the village.
Floating Store (Sari-sari Store)
Floating Public Market
There was a floating boat repair shop and gas station selling diesel for the boats, the most essential possession of fishermen who need to go deep in the lake for their livelihood.
Floating Boat Repair Shop
There was a volley ball court, totally covered with net on all sides, to prevent the ball falling in to the water. Many floating houses had hammocks and satellite dishes and Television for entertainment. It is also common here to see kids taking bath and swimming along the river.
There was a floating church catering the religious needs of the villagers.
Seeing the floating village of Tonle Sap lake is a memorable unique experience as it was partly an eye opener for me to the real Cambodian lifestyle. It is a must for anyone visiting Siem Reap. I was in mixed emotion starting from the motor ride going to the lake and passing the local villages, watching this khmer children having fun in the water, hardworking fishermen, get to see floating houses and schools, and several floating markets around the community.
The Tonle Sap is a natural wonder to behold. Being one of the largest lake in the world that serves a a main source of water or centuries which also links to most palaces and temples during the Khmer empire.