About 20 minutes away from Siem Reap is Tonlé Sap Lake where you can catch a boat to the floating village of Chong Kneas. During my visit in October, the water level of the lake was quite high. Monsoon rains had inundated many areas of Cambodia and Thailand. I saw houses under water along the road to Tonlé Sap and the surrounding rice fields were flooded making no distinction between land and lake. Cows lined the highway where they were safe from high waters. My tuk tuk driver deftly plunged into washed out roads or heavily potted ones like the one shown above. At one point we got stuck in a deep pothole but he thankfully got us out of it. I swayed in all directions inside the tuk tuk as we rode out of town. (It is not unusual to see red mud as it comes from red soil common in Siem Reap.)
From atop Phnom Krom, we had this view of the extent of the flood. The waters had risen to the roofs of houses.
We made it to the dock without further ado and I boarded a boat to Chong Kneas. There was thin traffic on the lake away from the pier. Water hyacinths grew profusely in some sections of the lake.
Many of the floating homes had one room and you could see through to the back of the house. Most villagers make a living by fishing. In the neighborhood are a village store, a basketball court which doubles as a hall for parties and weddings and a school which I visited. Life on the water is as normal as possible until the residents have to move depending on the season.
The floating village store is like a mini grocery store. I was able to buy a box of ramen noodles and pencils for the kids attending the nearby grade school. I also found notebooks and other school supplies as well as snacks and beverage. I'm sure they carry most of the villagers' daily needs.
This is the Truong Tieu Hoc grade school where I brought the noodles and pencils for the schoolchildren. It's a Vietnamese school as most of the villagers are Vietnamese who have lived in this area for a long time. If the child's family has no boat, sometimes they improvise.
These boys are in a plastic tub. My boat driver told me he often lost his books and school supplies because his little boat would turn over often. But he survived and now he is a boat driver who speaks English fluently. The students I met in class were well behaved, wore white uniform blouses though not all of them had the same color pants or skirts.
This trip to the floating village was quite a good break from visiting temples. There was so much to see and learn and it was a great way to meet local people.
Boat tickets are sold at the dock. Most passengers arrive as a group so they are placed in one boat. I came solo so I had the boat to myself. It costs US$35.00 to hire a boat for one person.
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Images by Charie. These photographs may not be used without the sole permission of the photographer.