Floating Lives – Siem Reap, Cambodia Trip #9

December 15, 2008 at 6:33 pm | Posted in itchy backside | 1 Comment
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After many days of temple-hopping under the fierce Cambodian sun, we kinda got ‘temple fatigue’ and wanted a change. Took the Tuk-tuk in the morning to this floating village called Chong Khneas for a glimpse of live there.

The way there was really far, as our regular Tuk-tuk driver rode his vehicle passed the road and then through some dusty country road. It must had been at least half an hour or more before he stopped at this suspicious-looking place to get us the boat ticket. We were told it cost US$10 for a one-and-a-half hour boat ride at the village….wow not as cheap as I expected…and we were the only ones stopping there to get tickets…but then we were given proper tickets with dated chopped, so we just had to take it as it was loraiya, should have taken a photo of the ticket sale place…:o

We continued to travel for a while longer before passing through some houses made of straw/wood, and then some busy-looking market place before reaching the jetty. Our driver told us to alight and not before long, some guys came over and asked if we wanted a boat ride. We passed them the tickets and were told to follow them to the boat. It was kinda chaotic and we were really surprised to know that we were having the entire boat to ourselves! By the way, there weren’t many tourists around too..wonder if it was because we were slightly earlier than those on tour package as Chong Khneas is the floating village that most visitors would be brought to see, with most tour companies operating from there too.

We had with us the boat operator, as well as a unofficial, English-speaking guide who would also help to manoeuver the boat when necessary.

The water at Tonle Sap was so dirty…maybe because it had been raining…?

There were approximately four to five thousand people living here, with facilities like hospital, school, basketball court, church etc. The boat motor was so loud that it was not easy trying to listen to every word our ‘guide’ said. No pictures cos I realised my camera batteries went flat…and somehow Tisu Boy was more interested in taking the houses and not the facilities… 😦

Boat people…

where they wash…



and play

Our guide rowing our boat to give way to the “Great Lake Fisheries Inspection Unit”

Door-to-door delivery…

We were told how to differentiate the Khmer from the Vietnamese…actually it was quite simple…and obvious…

The Khmers wore rounded hat…this was a fruit seller…

Selling all kinda fresh veggies…the Vietnamese wore the conical hat…

No need to go out shopping…cos everything was accessible right at your doorstep…

Somehow we had the feeling that our boat was not working very well…the engine didn’t sound too smooth, dying off frequently and needed to be restarted. At one point, we even lost control, sped and bumped into another boat! The impact made the poles supporting the roof break and fly off! Another Vietnamese veggy seller had to row her boat quickly away from us to avoid being hit too!

A rough sketch of what happened... 8)

The lake water, besides being brownish, was covered with water hyacinth at some point…

Boat loaded with logs trying to pass through the vegetation…

You would think she was standing on land farming if not for the oar she was holding…

We wondered why they didn’t cut the water hyacinth away instead of having to clear them only when they needed to pass…grasshoppers jumped out whenever boats passed through…dunnu why we din ask the guide…maybe the engine was so noisy that we din wanna strained our ears for the answer….but I read later that they used the stems of the water hyacinth for handicrafts. Now I wonder if they were cultivated or grown naturally?

Cutting the water hyacinth from the back of the boat…

Then our boat stopped at this floating restaurant cum souvenir shop. Hmmm…nothing much cos the items were the same as those around the Angkor Wat temples and the town. Our enthusiastic guide told us to go see the ‘attraction’ here…

The crocodile farm at the restaurant…

and to go upstairs for a panaramic view…

Very windy up here…but the lake was all covered by the water hyacinth leh…

We were left here for at least 10 minutes…think our boat was in quite bad shape that they needed time to fix it… 😦

Back on our boat, we thought the boat was working well again, and looked forward to seeing more interesting aspects of the floating lives. We saw other boats full of tourists coming from the opposite direction and thought we were heading there too but we were constantly halted by the defective motor, and seemed to be circling around, not going anywhere, stucked by the water hyacinth 😦 Then from amongst the pool of water hyacinth, we saw a boy paddling himself with his bare hands on a little wooden bucket. I was initially amused, but then realised that it was not so funny. He looked not more than 10 years old, tired from the paddling, and was constantly calling out to us for money. It was one of the most unforgettable scenes but we couldn’t bring ourselves to take his picture. Then he got nearer and nearer, and eventualy clung himself tightly to our boat, still begging. It was heart wrenching, but we din wanna start giving money, so we just waved ‘no’. 😦 Soon our boat was ‘resurrected’ so he rowed himself away to his next target.

Before we knew it, it was the end of our ride. Couldn’t help feeling a bit cheated cos half the time our boat was not moving. But we still tipped the boatman and our guide, afterall, it was not easy life for them.

We found our Tuk-tuk driver at the jetty, but told him that we would like to take a walk at the stretch of houses just before the market place. He must have thought we were crazy..It was close to noon time, but we thought we should take a closer look at the houses.

Houses made of wood and straw

Cutting hair

Notice the houses were all on stilt?

Living along the causeways and rivers, the villagers had to build their houses to adapt to the rising and falling water levels.

Houses needed to be on stilts up to 10 metres high, to allow for the rise in water levels

During the dry season, boats had no use but to be left in front of the houses

Wonder where do they keep Piggy once the water comes in?

Kids getting water

Like any impoverished towns in developing countries, there are bound to have people, especially kids, running after you for money or ‘bon-bon’ (French for ‘candy’). The trick is not to give in to one, cos if you do, you are asking for trouble….the rest of the kampong will come after you!

Tisu Girl kena harrassed by two persistent kids for money….”Gimme one dolar!”

The weather was super hot. We were getting hungry and needed to run away soon if not all the kids would come after us…


We wanted to visit the hilltop temple of Phnom Krom but only managed to go half way cos it was too hot and we were running out of energy…need food…! Had a good rest at the pavilion enjoying the breeze as well as the view of the stretch of road where we walked before heading back to Siem Reap town for LUNCH! 😀

We walked this whole stretch of hot and dusty road…

On the way up we saw these bunch of naked kids playing…One was spraying
water on the floor, while the others were doing all kinda swimming strokes on
the wet floor! Is that how they ‘learn’ swimming? Hahaha…very funny but since
they were all naked, very shy to go nearer to take picture…hahah

Also see related posts:
> Missing the Leper King – Ankgor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia Trip #8
The Elephant Terrace – Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia Trip #7
Face Towers of Bayon – Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia Trip #6
Gateway to Angkor Thom – Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia Trip #5
> Tomb Raiding the Tree-strangled Temple – Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia Trip #4
> Steps, Steps and More Steps! – Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia Trip #3
> Walls of Art – Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia Trip #2
Up, Up and Away! – Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia Trip #1


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  1. great story, I live in shihanoukville, but certainly will visit the tonle sap in future

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