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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.