Before our Cambodia visit, I believed that loads of things can float on water but I had never heard or imagined that an entire village can float on water. We were introduced to this concept and place by my cousins and once we heard about it, we had to see this. So we started our trip in Siem Reap with a visit to the Floating Village on the Tonle Sap Lake.
The Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and its pretty unusual as its flow changes direction twice a year and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons.From November to May (Cambodia’s dry season) the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River but after the rains the Tonlé Sap backs up to form an enormous lake wherein water flows from the Mekong river back into the lake. Another fascinating thing about this lake is the floating village on it. Many Vietnamese people live on this river on a floating house and fish for a living.
This lake is at about a 20 minute drive from Siem Reap and you then take a boat in the river. Each boat takes only one person or the Group and the entire ride takes about 2 hours. This boat ride is very surprising and saddening as you see an entire village on the water where numerous people are live in small houses (1 room), sleep on hammocks / floors, keep pets and fish in the lake for a living. They have everything on the lake – houses, a school, a church, a restaurant, an exhibition area, a store, literally everything. Many houses even had small floating gardens. It was absolutely amazing how these people live.
We saw this place in the dry season and hence saw a lot of land and some marshy forests. But our guide told us that post the rains all these lands and forests get completely submerged under water. The water at present was also very muddy but post the rains it becomes green blue in color.
Unfortunately I had forgotten to charge my camera the previous day and as Murphy’s law would have it, it shut down just when we started the tour. Hence please excuse the picture quality as they have been taken on a phone camera.
Our guide told us that you do not need to pay anything or buy any space to have a house on the lake. Hence you can literally build a new floating house, block some space and park your boat there. It’s as simple as that. Below is a picture of how people block their space on the lake. These markings mean that the space is taken.
Below is a picture of a typical compact house (floating on bamboo) with specific space for everything. You can see the laundry hanging on the side, the immaculately laid out kitchen (where everything has a fixed space on the wall) and even a small garden.
Instead of cars, people here have speed boats / flat boats which they use for transportation and for selling fruits and vegetables.
There are also all kinds of floating stores, a church, restaurant and even a school for this self-sufficient village.
Interestingly, no matter the poverty or how these people stay, every family here has at least one mobile phone and they even have a cell tower here for better network. 🙂
So if you ever visit Siem Reap, then be sure to include this in your itinerary.