The Floating Village on the Tonle Sap Lake

1 Jul

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.

Boats for the cruise

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.

Stands for construction of new boats

The New Boat

The New Houses

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.

Blocking Space for a new house

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.

a typical house

Houses with tin walls and the hanging laundry

House with a small garden

Instead of cars, people here have speed boats / flat boats which they use for transportation and for selling fruits and vegetables.

The local boats

There are also all kinds of floating stores, a church, restaurant and even a school  for this self-sufficient village.

Grocery Store

A Restaurant

A Bright Yellow Gardening Store

Shop for Boat supplies

The Floating School

The Church

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.

56 Responses to “The Floating Village on the Tonle Sap Lake”

  1. rommel July 2, 2012 at 08:46 #

    My jealousy’s kicking in. The floating village has been my lifelong dream. Thanks for the share.


  2. IshitaUnblogged July 4, 2012 at 03:31 #

    Absolutely wonderful! Floating Village – can life get more dreamier than this?


    • getsetandgo July 4, 2012 at 10:47 #

      Hi Ishita… It is quite a unique concept and a great place to see…

      But at the same time I also feel bad for the people who have to stay in such confined spaces as they cant afford any other place…. Its kind of sad too…


      • IshitaUnblogged July 4, 2012 at 11:09 #

        Well didn’t really think of it in that perspective… very true.


  3. wordswithnannaprawn July 4, 2012 at 06:24 #

    It’s really not such a crazy idea when you consider the floods we had in Queensland last year!


    • getsetandgo July 4, 2012 at 10:55 #

      Hahaha… You are right… To think of it, this is applicable for Mumbai too….


  4. Stacy Alexander, Writer/Artist July 4, 2012 at 08:32 #

    Very interesting post. I really enjoyed reading about your adventure and seeing the photos. Thanks for posting it!


  5. texasroadies July 4, 2012 at 09:18 #

    This is a a cool blog! Thank you for reading and “liking” our road trip.


  6. Color Odyssey July 16, 2012 at 14:42 #

    Isn’t it beautiful! specially during sunset. And I realized that the floating houses are the same as I saw them last year! Here’s the link to my post on it – 🙂


    • getsetandgo July 16, 2012 at 16:23 #

      Hi Ritu…. Love your pics on this place… Because of my carelessness with the camera battery missed taking some good pics here… Also I hope to be able to take pics like you someday… sigh….


  7. friendlytm July 16, 2012 at 16:13 #

    Thank you for stopping by my blogs, and liking them. I have been to Cambodia, and am very interested to see India. Your post is beautiful in pix and writing. Keep up your good work.


    • getsetandgo July 16, 2012 at 16:26 #

      Thanks a ton for your kind words… Appreciate it… India is a beautiful country too and with loads of things to do… A must visit for sure… 🙂


  8. aquacompass7 July 18, 2012 at 13:11 #

    Thank you for visiting my blog.


  9. kimberlysullivan July 19, 2012 at 13:12 #

    Great post! I didn’t have time for this on my visit to Siem Reap, but next time definitely…


    • getsetandgo July 23, 2012 at 10:59 #

      Hi, this place is a must visit and there are quite a few choices in terms of lakes and duration… I have heard the sun sey cruise is also very nice…


  10. justinwuglobal July 19, 2012 at 15:22 #

    the grocery store is the best 🙂


  11. Tesney Ap July 20, 2012 at 13:41 #

    What a cool place! When we go home to Thailand next time, we will definite go and check out Cambodia 🙂


    • getsetandgo July 23, 2012 at 12:56 #

      Its very easy and cheap to reach Cambodia from Thailand through the various land borders…


  12. PN Subramanian July 23, 2012 at 15:17 #

    Excited to learn about the floating village. There are similar houses in Kashmir too but not for the locals, they are for tourists. Here in the pictures I find some them resting on wooden pillars drawn into the lake. Again I have seen people living by the lake side in Kashmir where they have encroached upon the lake waters. I shall soon be covering them.


    • getsetandgo July 26, 2012 at 22:49 #

      Hey, look forward to those posts. I agree, the Kashmir House boats are very different from these boats. These are also more compact and at times more than 10 people stay in one room house.


  13. Purnendu Singh July 23, 2012 at 22:33 #

    I missed this village when I went to Cambodia due to time constraints. Will go again someday 🙂


    • getsetandgo July 26, 2012 at 22:50 #

      Hi, you should surely visit this place,, Even I want to go back someday to see the lake in the high season


  14. sjk July 26, 2012 at 21:58 #

    Really cool, would have loved to have seen that. Guess i’ll just have to make sure I go back to Cambodia 😉


    • getsetandgo July 26, 2012 at 23:01 #

      Yah.. Like one of friends says that there should always be things to see left in a place already seen to go back to it for. 🙂


  15. Our Kitchen Inventions July 26, 2012 at 22:05 #

    Just love the photos of the “floating stores”! Very fun to know that this is in existence. Thanks for sharing your trip. Also, thanks for the “like” on our blog today. Hope to see you back soon.


  16. addosh July 28, 2012 at 13:42 #

    Hey, thanks for the likes! Nice photos too!!!


  17. tchistorygal July 29, 2012 at 07:13 #

    Interesting article. It must have been a wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing, and taking the time to write it. Thanks also for visiting my blog. 🙂


    • getsetandgo July 30, 2012 at 16:27 #

      Thanks tchistorygal.


      • tchistorygal July 31, 2012 at 08:56 #

        That’s what I thought! I reblogged it. It is a unique place in the world.


  18. fgassette July 29, 2012 at 18:06 #

    Thanks for sharing about this amazing place that I have never seen before. Your photos and information is wonderful. Thanks for visiting my blog.



    • getsetandgo July 30, 2012 at 17:53 #

      Thanks fgassette and I always beleive that blogging has introduced me to another way of travel – by reading other blog posts. 🙂


  19. Grumpa Joe August 3, 2012 at 01:29 #

    Great travel post. I’d love to experience the floating village. The closest I have come is a short visit to Aberdeen in Hong Kong.


  20. Shantaya August 10, 2012 at 01:17 #

    I would love to visit here. Thanks for your visit at Girl and Her Pink Backpack.


    • getsetandgo August 10, 2012 at 14:15 #

      Thanks Shantaya. It is quite a unique experience.


  21. abradbury413 August 10, 2012 at 01:40 #

    Great post and thanks for liking my post! I believe the Travel Channel show, Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” did an episode on this river. Anthony (and his crew) sought out to catch a fish known for being a local delicacy and they were told they only had a brief amount of time to go out on the boat before the water level went down so much that their boat would get stuck in shallow water! Incredible what some water can do! Looking forward to reading more of your posts.


    • getsetandgo August 10, 2012 at 14:19 #

      Hey, thanks a ton for sharing this info. I had not known about this but will definitely look for this video online. It must have been quite an experience.. 🙂


  22. Madoqua August 10, 2012 at 13:58 #

    What an amazing place – would love to go and visit!


    • getsetandgo August 10, 2012 at 14:25 #

      Hi Madoqua, this is a completely unique experience and definitely worth a visit.


  23. Ed Spadoni August 17, 2012 at 16:16 #

    Thanks for a fascinating look at the other side of the world.


  24. antizmannen August 23, 2012 at 18:17 #

    Which village is this?
    I was in Cambodia in 2009 and visited Kampong Phluk which is a “floating” village on the Tonle Sap..


    • getsetandgo August 25, 2012 at 23:50 #

      I think it’s the same village, I don’t remember the name


  25. bucketdave August 25, 2012 at 23:39 #

    Wow, very interesting. I can’t believe the whole village just exists on a river. Quick thinking on the photos. It would be hard to imagine without the images.


    • getsetandgo August 25, 2012 at 23:54 #

      Thanks. You should seriously visit this place as the pics don’t do justice to it at all…


      • bucketdave August 26, 2012 at 02:01 #

        I’m on the other side of the world at the moment (a bit tough to make a day trip), but when I’m closer I will definitely check it out.



  1. The Unusual View Of Floating Village on Tonle Sap | Travel Pandaz - July 27, 2012

    […] Because of so different and unique the life on the Tonle Sap Lake, it is very exciting for us to explore, as told by Getsetandgo […]


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