Siem Reap is the most recommended place to visit in Cambodia as it is a melting pot of many tourist attractions. It is prominent for its historical tourist destinations such as the outrageous Angkor Wat as well as other number of temples standing across the province or its hustling nightlife at the Pubstreet, but Have you ever heard about the Floating Village in Siem Reap? The answer is perhaps no, because Siem Reap is not much publicized for its floating village along the Tonle Sap river.
Visiting Angkor Wat and other temples is ticked. Cycling in the big and small ring is ticked. Visiting the cultural village is ticked Getting the fish massage is ticked. Chilling at pub street is ticked. Shopping at night market is ticked. So what is next? Let’s head to floating village.
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Explore Floating Village in Siem Reap
Floating village is pretty self explanatory. It is basically where people live on the water. Then why would it is worth a visit? The answer whether to visit or not lies totally on your interest. If you are a tourist who is interested to learn about the life of the local living in another part of Siem Reap that often get overlooked by other most tourists, then this place is calling you. Floating village is not just where local cambodian stay but it is one of the places where the definition of being southeast asian is found. Here are the four accessible floating village for you to explore.
Heading east on Road 6 till you reach Bakong then taking right to the sign that pointed out, you will reach Kompong Phuluk, one of the four floating villages, in less than half an hour from that sign depending on the mean of your transportation. Kompong Phluk exists long before the destruction caused by the Khmer Rouge in which the entire village was once burnt down forcing residents to leave their homes.
When the dark period is over, former residents started to return to Kompong Phluk to settle down and build a better community which is now becoming one of the tourist attractions that offer a range of authentic experience. On the flat surface of the water stand many houses that are home to about 3000 people. They all look like houses but some of them are schools, pagoda, and market.
There is almost no difference looking from a distance until your boat slowly pass by each wooden building, you then recognise which is which.The community in this village thrives on catching fish and shrimp so don’t you worry about starving. Do request your tour to put you in a restaurant available there. Do also mention that you want the normal restaurant that don’t serve crocodile meat because crocodile is also a thing at Kampong Phluk floating village. Alot of people rear crocodiles instead of hens or other common livestock.
fKampong Phluk or ‘harbor of tusks’ as said from its meaning is just 30 km from Siem Reap and can easily be managed in a half-day trip. However, it is wiser to spend at least an entire day from morning till evening there as this village has some more than just the village to offer. Spending just 5 bucks on top of the 20bucks for entering the village, it can also allow you to visit the flooding forest where you get the chill as if you are in an adventure movie you see on TV.
Duration: half day
Price range: 20$-25$
Being the largest and farthest floating village from Siem Reap often makes Kampong Khleang a spot to skip for tourists. However, Thanks to modern technology like Google Maps and the progressing development, Kompong Khleang floating village is now easily accessible by any means of transportation. Tourist will first pass by the concrete road then get welcomed by the enormous Tonle Sap river where thousand of silted houses rely on.
This floating village is home to more than 10000 people and has all the features of a normal town such as market serving the village as well as homes which stock essential supplies for nearby neighbors, pagodas serving the religious needs of the community, school, and even medical center for emergencies. It is the only floating village in Cambodia where the villages can benefit from the ecotourism because it has proper community based who take care of that. Take Community First for example. It take guests to Kompong Khleang and provides a tour guide who is a local to make sure they experience the best of Kampong Khleang.
In return, 35$ that they earn from each tourist will be given back to this floating village by supporting a local school named Bridge of Life. Tourists visiting this floating village often leave as friends because the local gives the best hospitality and unforgettable experience they can ever imagine.
Duration: Half day
Price Range: 20$-35$
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Chong Kneas floating village gets a reputation with Korean tourists. Many Korean visitors drop by Chong Kneas every week leaving many Korean restaurants on spot for the next travellers to have a taste of kimchi over the view of Tonle Sap river. Besides dining at a restaurant or two there or visit the church that is built in quite a unique structure, there isn’t much else to do here at Chong Kneas floating village, unless extending the boat trip is part of your plan. Chong Kneas floating village is not that big though and you are not recommended to go around the village multiple times for the sake of extending the trip, but you are recommended to take a trip to either Battambang or Phnom Penh through this water way because Chong Kneas is a terminal to those two spots. Traveling by boat might give you extraordinary, who knows?
If are having time constraint for your traveling, then it is possible to squeeze Chong Kneas in your schedule. You can arrive Chong Kneas late in the afternoon as the boat trip will take only 15 minutes or something to finish. You can then relax at any of the restaurants there ordering some cold drink to warm up your throat and mind while waiting to see off the sun.
Duration: 15 minutes
Price Range: 15$
If you want to get a new perspective on life, head 25km from Siem Reap to Mechrey floating village. There you will find houses on water just like the other three floating village, but what special is the floating garden and floating cemetery which quite bizarre yet interesting. Feel free to kick start conversation with any locals you meet if they are able to speak the language you do. Hearing about their life and their inspiration will surely leave you some reflection from this trip. It is not about feeling sorry about their life but it is about learning to see how one manage to enjoy life through such living conditions. After all, the trip is part of finding who you are and the meaning of life.
To enter Mechrey floating village, you need to spend 20$ for boat ticket and tourism tax. If you add 30$ more, you will be taken to the bird sanctuary where you can get to see many endangered bird species and feel the nature of tropical Southeast Asia.
To get to floating villages
You can get to these four floating villages by yourself as tours first arrive by road, before switching to a small boat to paddle around the floating markets, stilted houses, fish farms, and rice paddies. You can do that by hopping on a tuk tuk or car or drive your own motorbike or car. Once you are off the road, you will be offered by the local there to take the boat which is the main method of getting you floating village tour completed.
However, without booking in advance, it might be a bit complicated and frustrating. Thus, we do suggest that you find a reputable tour operators such as Beyond Unique Escapes, Tara Boat, Sam Veasna Center or Triple A Adventures. These organisations run tours that will give you the best experience of the lake whilst being considerate of the people living there. Here are some prices just to give you some idea.
Tara Boat: trips to Chong Kneas and Kampong Phluk that starts from 38$. Package includes door-to-door pick up service, 4 hour tour, and sunset dinner excursion.
Beyond Unique Escapes: do trip to Kampong Khleang floating village for 6 hours for 20$ up. Service comes with free snacks and drinks as well.
Sam Veasna Center: tours go to Chong Kneas and the flooded forest, as well as Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary. SVC provide educational tours and facilitate conservation of wildlife areas across Cambodia. Half day tour (5 hours) starts from 20$.
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To conclude, visiting any of the floating villages is an authentic experience as nothing is staged or fake. but it could feel quite invasive as most of the people living there don’t either include or receive benefit from the industry. However, having things prepared in advance can avoid the problem. It is worth visiting as it gives you another insight about the reality of life taming your gratitude towards it. Moreover, no one can guarantee that this village will be around forever, seeing it now is better than not.