The Great Tonle Sap Lake
The Life Support of Cambodia
If Cambodia was a beautiful lady, Tonle Sap Lake would definitely be her precious heart. And did you know that Tonle Sap lake was once an ancient crust created by tectonic movement? Now what is filled in it is freshwater. This lake is also one of the world’s most varied and productive living species. It is unquestionably the main food resource to millions of Cambodian. Surrounded by five provinces including Kampong Chnang, Kampong Thom, Posat, Battambong, Seam Reap is fortunate to be among them.
Siem Reap has got many different tourism sites. They range from man-made attraction to the beautiful area created by nature herself. Tonle Sap Lake falls undoubtedly into the latter category. This is probably one of the few places in Cambodia that have preserved wild lives as well as Khmer culture to the most consecutive point. Now lets us all take a look and find out more about this unique place.
Why Tonle Sap Lake? – Shocking Background Dated back to the time before the Existence of Human
The lake holds many interesting facts that you should as well learn more about right now. If you take a look at the geographical map of Cambodia, you can see the origin of the freshwater in Tonle Sap Lake. The Mekong treats the lake as her lower basin so the water that flows from the Mekong has to go up to fill Tonle Sap Lake first before moving down into the sea. If you look closely in the map, it feels like a mother (Mekong River) had given birth to her child (Tonle Sap lake), and she keeps on giving relentlessly ever since.
As mentioned above, not only that it was a crust millions of years ago, Tonle Sap used to be an inland sea. That was also due to the meeting between the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. Now the former sea has turned into the largest freshwater body in Southeast Asia. Moreover, it is also one of the biggest inland fishing regions in the world. It has provided 400,000 tons of freshwater fish annually!
Another noticeable beauty of Tonle Sap Lake is its inundated seasonal lake. The Asian monsoon regime is the factor to this varying size of the lake throughout the year. It can be as small as 2,500 km2 at the end of the dry season. The size, however, can spread over 16,000 km2 at the peak of the rainy season which is around September to October. This natural annual course also brings floodplain and sediment to the land around the lake. As a result, the lake creates and shapes the life of the living things that depend on it including the Cambodian people.
A Must-see Experience awaits you at Tonle Sap Lake
Visitors who come to Siem Reap inevitably pick Tonle Sap Lake as their second destination apart from all the temples. Do remember that what you are going to get from your own sight on your visit there worth much more. No article has described this place justice so far. Looking through the internet at those pictures still can’t match the satisfaction you can get from seeing in person. The camera could only capture as much as half of the profound essence of Tonle Sap Lake.
The special element about your trip there is the combination of nature and culture walking along in one place. You can enjoy the greenery everywhere you turn. The air of the lake and the forest around it also bring freshness to your spirit. At the same time, while taking a boat ride, you get to observe the lives of those who live there. You can learn how rural Cambodian survives their daily life. You might be amazed at their skillful techniques of fishing preserved from one generation to another. And that doesn’t even include the form of the houses they build. The people there have gotten used to their lives on the water. It is clear they would not know what to do if they were to live far from the lake. To watch all of these going on before your very eyes is a remarkable gift.
Visiting Tonle Sap Lake is the definite definition of killing two birds with one stone. It is a no brainer for travelers to spend one day out of their few-day holiday to experience this. Especially when you are already visiting Siem Reap, why not?
The Best Spot to Visit to Get the most out of your trip to Tonle Sap Lake
Kampong Phluk Floating Village
If you are on route #6 about 16km southeast of Siem Reap city, this would be the place to visit. Take a ride to Rolous village where you can find boats ready to take you to Kampong Phluk floating village. However, you can only use the boat in the rainy season. In the dry season, it is not necessary. The village itself is a permanent community to 3,000 settlers. They only move closer to build a temporary house on to the lake to fish until the rainy season comes. The stilts that support the houses can be seen as tall as 10-meter high in the dry season. The life of the village depends on fishing, especially shrimp. You can also take pictures along the way from your boat.
Kampong Khleang Floating Village
It is the largest floating village on Tonle Sap Lake of Siem Reap province. However, it is probably the farthest (55km) from the city. With a population of 10,000, it is where those in Siem Reap depend on in the supply of best fish. It is also the spot known for its traditional and cultural fishing method. You can get there by traveling on route #6 like the previous village but further.
You will have to either take a boat ride along the lake or a drive along the line of its land to see all the view. There are not only stilted houses but also school and health care commune for the villagers there. A further boat rides, and you will find an ethnic group of Vietnamese floating village, having dwelled there for some times. If you visit Kampong Khleang in the dry season, you can also take a walking tour around this floating village.
By taking a 30-minute trip from the city to the northern end of Tonle Sap Lake, you’ll spot this village. Unlike other places mentioned here, a two-hour-long tour in this village is going to cost you $20. Yes, this place requires an entrance fee but for a good reason. This place contains not only the culture-preserved floating houses and custom but also other natural living habitats. You can take pictures of the wildlife there, but you have to be patient and calm with the animals. There is also a floating market that sells exotic souvenir. Though be reminded that some of those souvenirs might be a bit controversial. A wise idea would be to get a tour guide to help lead you to Tonle Sap Lake.
The word ‘Phnom’ in English means ‘mountain’. However, what you are going to find when you visit there is a 140-meter-high hill. Up on the hilltop stands a handsome Hindu temple built since Angkorian Era. Phnom Krom is also the closest place you can visit from the city to Tonle Sap Lake. It might take some people a tiring 15-minute long to climb up the stairs, but the view from up there worth every drop of sweat. It shows the beautiful body of Tonle Sap Lake and its hands branching in all directions. That doesn’t even include the green square-shape rice field stretching out as far as the eyes could see. If you choose to visit in the afternoon, make sure to stay for the evening. The sunset you from that peak would just completely rest your mind.
What to Expect the Unexpected
It is, reported by researchers, one of the very few nowadays biodiversity hotspot. Tonle Sap hosts the home of around 200 living species including 17 threatened species. Mekong giant catfish, which is among the world rarest and largest freshwater fish, also resides here. It is also the hide-out of colonies of unique beautiful birds. Spot-billed pelican is one of these endangered birds, and Tonle Sap is their home. All of that numbers don’t even include some near-extinct reptiles like the Siamese crocodiles and the freshwater snakes.
Despite going through modification of human settling and farming, Tonle Sap still packs about 200 species of plants. Travelers can certainly spot the mangrove trees that surround the giant lake like a thick green brownish wall. The wetlands, deciduous forest, as well as the flooded forest create a home to the living habitats, and these living beings depend wholly on the lake.
All of these paint a picture of a distinct natural beauty that is just priceless. No word can describe this kind of wonder, for human, who invented languages, has no ability to design this canvas. Visitors just come to the lake to experience the sight of this phenomenon.
Well, the best thing to do is to get a boat and ride out to the near center Tonle Sap Lake. You will find that, when you turn around you, there’s no land as far as your eyes can see. It looks basically as if you are in the middle of the ocean. It will let your mind make peace with all that has troubled it. The sunset seen from your boat in the middle of the lake is just to die for. There is nothing more magical than this.
Visit Tonle Sap Lake while you still can
In short, why skip a journey to Tonle Sap Lake when you are already on the ancient land of Siem Reap? Enjoy the trip there. Take as much advantage as you can as long as you are here. Tonle Sap Lake is a magnificent present given by mother nature which should be shared and not kept to oneself. Be reminded that it is not easy to find your ways in those places mentioned above.
The best tip is to arrange a package from the tour trip, so they can provide you guidance. They would help you manage your time and make sure that you can see it all. It’s the most ideal guarantee to get the fullest experience out of your visit. Also, remember that this sight only exists mainly on the part of Siem Reap province and nowhere else. And no one knows how long this beauty is going to last in the years ahead.