Siem Reap, Cambodia – Ton Le Sap is recognized as the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. There’s no doubt that this is one of the best tourist attractions in Cambodia as it is beautiful in its own right. We are truly astonished when we visited the place, but once we got to know a little more info, we got quashed with mixed feelings.
Our faithful tuktuk driver drove us to Chong Kneas, Tonle Sap Floating Village, 30 minutes away outside Siem Reap. From here we bought ticket for a sunset boat ride for 20USD. We had second thoughts before buying but then it’s for the experience (and the sunset.)
First off, we advise people to get used to a bit mucky surroundings. The whole trip we rode a motorized boat (which I think is too big for just 2 passengers) and sail through a mud-like body of water. You get little splashes often, especially when other boats are passing on the other direction. What’s quite amazing though, is that when you collect some water, it’s actually pretty clear.
From the dock, it takes 30-45 minutes to reach the Floating Village. In this “community”, you can see different types of floating houses the locals call home. Our tour guide said that living here is actually cool and efficient, especially if a person is used to simple living, because every basic needs you require literally surrounds you: water for drinking, for bath and for cleaning, and the fishes for food. They also have floating school, floating markets and floating church.
In the middle of the village we went to this big raft, kinda like a floating restaurant where visitors normally stop by. What we liked most about this place are the 10 or so little crocodiles they are keeping. Other stuff are also being sold here such as food, products made from crocodiles like bags or wallets, and even the dried crocodile skin which they got on display.
On the upper deck, you have a truly great view of almost the entire Floating Village. Waiting for the sunset here also feels relaxing. Again due to our tight budget, we only bought one coconut here to drink.
Our visit to the Floating Village is quite moving. Not only are we amazed by the Ton Le Sap lake, we also admire the simple lifestyle of the locals which is a great representation of the expression “less is more”. Going back, we get to know more from our tour guide who is surprisingly just a part-timer, and attends school at night. According to him, it seems like their government has forgotten about them, the people from the village, and that they are not getting enough help even though a significant chunk of their economy comes from the fish industry. We then felt more awkward handing out a small tip to him and the boat driver. We hope to come back again to this place so that even in small gestures such as tipping and buying their products, we can help.