Cambodia: Chong Kneas Floating Village in Siem Reap

The Tonle Sap Lake is home to several floating villages in Cambodia. It is the largest freshwater lake in the Southeast Asia. During the dry season, the surface area of the lake is about 2,700 square km; however, during the rainy season, it swells to about 16,000 square km. Since the Mekong River and the Tonles Sap are connected, during the monsoon season, the river receives a considerable amount of rain which causes it to push its way into the Tonle Sap Lake.

Chong Kneas floating village

The Tonle Sap Lake meets the Mekong River

So, while we were in Siem Reap, we planned a trip to the floating village of Chong Kneas and we thought that it was a good break from visiting temples, in spite of the bad reviews that we’ve read. From our hotel, it took us about 20 minutes by tuktuk to the Tonle Sap Lake, where we could catch a boat to the floating village of Chong Kneas. There, we hired a boat for two for $30 for about 1.5 hour.

at the Chong Kneas floating village

Chong Kneas floating village

During our visit, we saw and learn many things. The Chong Kneas floating village literally consists of floating homes and boats, housing about 5,000 inhabitants of the poorest Cambodians and Vietnamese refugees. During the dry season, some of these homes rest on the banks of the lake while during the wet season the village grow in size as more and more homes become afloat.  Many residents move their floating homes several times throughout the year since the water level fluctuates extremely. Furthermore, most villagers’ main livelihood is fishing.

a boat shop

Chong Kneas floating village

This boat is moving a floating house

I found it interesting that Chong Kneas floating village is quite functional – there’s a school, a church, several shops, a police station, a basketball court, a pool hall, a crocodile farm, and a restaurant. The residents use car batteries so they could get some electricity, but even with electricity, life’s still not easy here.

floating Korean Restaurant

the floating police station

While exploring the village, we stopped at the crocodile farm. I saw many able children panhandling and spending the whole day begging for money instead of attending school. There were also some able mothers who brought their babies and just simply asked for money. It’s really so unfortunate and so sad. The view at the top of the crocodile farm was very nice and breathtaking, though.

at the crocodile farm

the souvenir shop

so slimy

some tourists giving candies to the kids

From the crocodile farm, we dropped at the shops where they sells different goods – food, school supplies, kitchen wares, etc. We bought a sack of rice. Then we went to the school and gave the rice to the schoolchildren. The children looked very happy and grateful when we gave them the rice. When we arrived at the school, the children were well behaved while learning Vietnamese. We’d got the chance to see the chapel as well.

kids learning Vietnamese

Even though the situation of the people there broke my heart, we got a better understanding of the struggles some of the poorest Cambodians have to go through in their daily life.

 

 

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Cambodia: Horseback Riding in Siem Reap

It was our 4th time to travel to Siem Reap and we planned to do a 1.5 hour horseback riding adventure with Happy Valley Ranch. In this ranch, all levels of riders are welcome, which means you can ride at your level; and you can choose how long you want to ride for.

Loved seeing Siem Reap on a horseback 🙂

This was so fun!

We went to the ranch at around 3.30pm. I was happy to arrive at a green and beautiful facility; moreover the horses were properly looked after. When everything was ready, we got to saddle up by around 4pm. Our horses were Diamond, a white horse and Star, a brown horse. They were well behaved throughout the journey. We were able to walk, trot, and canter. It seems that trotting is quite painful when you don’t know the technique. My butt just kept on slamming against the saddle, but eventually I learned to brace myself by using my thighs.

Happy Valley Ranch

Get out to the fields

Overall, we had the pleasure of going on a 1.5 hour trail ride with our excellent guide. We got a glimpse of the Cambodian countryside and their farmlands. We’d got the chance to watch the sunset and I did get some amazing photographs of the countryside.

Beautiful sunset

Through the fields

Little Lilly travel tip:

  • If you wish to do horseback riding in Siem Reap, book directly with Happy Valley Ranch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cambodia: Discovering Kampot’s Quiet Charms

Kampot is our favorite town in Cambodia where to spend a short break away from the hustle and bustle of the city. On the top of its serenity and slow life, it’s a great destination for a short city break because it will not empty your bank account.

Lazying in a hammock

Here’s what is it that we have fallen for about this small but liveable town of Kampot.

Laid back townThe life in Kampot feels so slow. No rush. It’s quiet. The traffic is almost non-existent. It’s hard to believe that there is quite a number of tourists. It’s easy to get around either by foot, bicycle or motorbike.

Life is beautiful.

Visit the salt fieldsKampot is the only salt producer town in Cambodia. We went to the salt fields early in the morning around 8am, and they looked so stunning. We watched the workers raking the salt and carrying it off in heavy bamboo baskets.  Our Tuktuk driver/guide told us that the workers brought the sea water from the sea about 5 km away into the prepared clay fields. Then they left it there to evaporate until salts crystals are formed.

Those small white hills of salt crystals look so lovely.

Try Kampot PepperKampot is famous of its pepper, one of the best and finest pepper in the world. We walked around the pepper vines, took pictures, and tasted the growing peppers. Kampot peppers have a unique fruity taste, the trademark of the place. We learned a lot of information about pepper production!

Did you know that black, red, and white pepper comes from the same plant?

Trip to Bokor MountainWe explored Bokor Hill Station both by motorbike and by car. It’s very high up the mountains and there are some interesting old buildings to enjoy. The scenery from the top is mesmerizing, especially when you can literally touch the clouds and take in the bracing mountain air. To me, the deserted church and the view on the hill behind it are the highlights; and the best way to explore Bokor is by motorbike. It was full of fun and a great day out!

I love the cool climate and wonderful scenery here.

Climb in the dark cave of Phnom ChhngokWe explored the cave of Phnom Chhngok as part of our full day tour. It is off the main road to Kep, about 8 kms from Kampot. We then climbed about 300 stairs; when we reached the top we descended into the cave and we were greeted with beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. The cave is wonderful with amazing natural rock formations; and it is a home to a 7th century shrine to Shiva.

One of the fascinating rock formations in the cave

Enjoy the riverThe riverside location of Kampot is one of its best attractions. At sunset, many tourists, expats and locals enjoy strolling along the river promenade. There are also many restaurants, cafes, bars on the riverside where you can enjoy happy hour cocktails. I love lazying in one of the restaurants there – enjoying the cocktail while watching people passing by.

sunset love

happy hour cocktail

Take a sunset cruiseI love this sunset cruise! The price was affordable, it included a drink and lasted a few hours. It was great way to enjoy a sunset and we had a nice evening on the river. Overall, it was a quiet relaxing experience.

so beautiful

Canoe down the riverWe paddled the river with our canoe for about 3 hours. It was quite hard and very hot but we enjoyed a very peaceful ride until we reached the mangrove area. We noticed that it was a dead end, there was no current at all and the waters were shallow. On the way back, we stopped in the so called “tourism site” for a drink and snacks. I think it was a great way to discover the beautiful and diverse flora and fauna in the river.

enjoyed it so much

Savor great foodThere are many restaurants, cafes, bars in Kampot. You can easily find everything there – pizza, burgers, steak, pasta, local food, baguettes, freshly squeezed sugarcane juice, fresh fruit juice, sweet potato cakes, steamed corn, and many more.

yummy

Hit the Rabbit Island in KepWe went on a day trip to the beach in Kep. The boat took about 20 minutes from the port in Kep to the Rabbit Island. We spent a day there – trekked around the island; enjoyed the tranquility, landscapes, the beach, local life, cocktail and beer as we lazed throughout the day. It was a heaven on earth! 🙂

worth a day trip

A day trip to eat yummy seafood in KepIt was a beautiful sunny day when we went there for lunch. Great setting by the sea and the food was really delicious. We had crabs with peppercorn, BBQ squid, prawns with garlic, and spring rolls. Certainly, it was my best seafood meal in Cambodia!

love it!

Have fun with rapidsWe stopped there before we went to the zoo. It’s a pretty place to relax. The water is cool and clear. At the weekend, many locals flock there for a picnic.

calm

Truly, with all its splendors, one visit in Kampot is never enough.

Have you been to Kampot? What did you like best there?