Tonle Sap Lake Floating Village:
Did I spend too much money going to Chong Kneas by the Tonle Sap lake?
I paid $15 for a sunset boat ride and $10 for a tuktuk. Irealized later that I could have had both for $15 (without a sunsetthough).
But the actual experience itself wasn’t too bad. It was ratherexciting actually.
Chong Kneas, as you know, is a floating village attheedge of theTonle Sap Lake. This is where the boat docks if you’rearriving fromBattambang or Phnom Penh. It’s about 20 – 30 minutes from the center ofSiem Reap.
On the way to the floating village itself, you’ll see large paddyfields and stilted houses on both sides of the road. You’ll also passby Phnom Krom hill which has an ancient temple at thetop.
Large paddy fields on both sides of the road
The floating village
As soon as you enter the village, you’ll see rows of tourist boatsdocked closely together. You’ll also start smelling that fishysmell that seems to be present with river villages. One look at thewater and you realize that it’s not even remotely clean. But such islife. People in the village still use it for washing and bathing.
The floating village is rather small. After about 20 minutes of goingslowlyon the boat, you’ll reach the large Tonle Sap lake. On the way there,however, you’ll see many interesting sights.
The boat is pulling the floating house to a new location
Residents moving about
Cleaning a coconut by the lake
A tourist boat passing by the floating houses
This school is probably one of the most famous schools in Cambodia.Even before seeing it in person, I’d seen it several times inother travelers’ photos. Sadly, school hours were over when I arrivedso I didn’t actually see any kids.
Chong Kneas Elementary School
Some kids went back home by boat, while others went by foot. Since thewater level wasn’t that high yet, there was a large area of dry landalong one side of the boats so the kids could still walk home.
There was a school basketball court also, which will make you wonderhowthat could be possible. But as soon as you see the court, you’ll seethegenius behind it. The floating court has rails on all sides, so theball and the kidswill always stay inside no matter what happens.
The fish and crocodile farms
This farm is probably the ‘highlight’ of the Chong Kneas visit (otherthan the village and the lake itself). The fish farm is a catfishfarm and visitors have the chance to feed them. When we came,thefish weren’t that excited about the food that we threw in. Isuppose they were already full of food thrown in by previousvisitors.
As more visitors stop by the farms, the lady who keeps an eye on theplace looks weary when new visitors fed the fish. No wonder,you really can kill fish by overfeeding them.
There is a crocodile farm with about ten crocodiles right next to thefish farm. Most of them hide, but youcan still see some of them clearly, whether they’re sleeping oryawning.
Good life for the crocodile
There are also a lot of catfish heads floating around thecrocodile’scage. So apparently the fish from the farm gets fed to thesecrocodiles.
You can also go to the 2nd and 3rd story of the farm for a great viewoverlooking the floating village and Tonle Sap Lake. It lookslike there’sanother outlook pointnot far from the farm, must be another tourist spot, but I’m not sureif they have a crocodile or fish farm as well.
From the rooftop, you can see how big the lake really is. It’s so huge,that eventhough it really is a lake, it looks more like amuddy colored ocean.
It’s great to spend some time here. You can see everything from thetop; the lake, the hill, the boats, the people. Definitely a good placefor taking pictures.
Scenery from the rooftop of the crocodile farm
The big rain
When we went, it was very windy and we could actuallysee cloudsdarkening in the distance. With that, all hope for a sunset waslost because the village would likely receive a big dose of rain verysoon(it hadn’t rained in the past few days and it was the beginning of therainy season).
Clouds darkening in the distance
As minutes passed, the wind grew stronger and stronger and thelake started to have serious waves. The floating housesmoved randomly, and people became busy preparing fortherain.
Some kids wereplaying around by throwing an empty water bottle againstthe thewind, only to catch the bottle again when the wind pushed itback towards them. Playing around with the lawsofphysics looked fun!
With the almost certainty of rain, we decided to head back to townbefore it started to pour. Even though it hadn’t actually rained inChong Kneas, there was no doubt it was alreadyraining in Siem Reap.
Then everything was done in a hurry. We journeyed back to the boatdocks and then went straight to the tuktuk and put the rain/wind shieldup. While I knew I’d be safely tucked inside the tuktuk, protected fromwind and rain, I wondered how my tuktuk driver will fare. Luckily, hehad his rain jacket ready and put it on just before we entered therainy area.
So although I didn’t get to see the sunset, the storm experience wasnonetheless very interesting. For anyone who wants to seea worldapart from the Angkor temples and Siem Reap, a trip to ChongKneas at the Tonle Sap Lake is definitely in order.
How to get there
There are many ways to arrange your trip to Chong Kneas, but thecheapest I’vefound is $15 through The Villa Siem Reap tour. That doesnot include a sunset experience however.
There is also another company that advertises heavily around town, TaraBoat, where you can do a normal cruise for $20 and a sunset cruise for$30. Both of those choices include at least one meal and one drink.
Both The Villa Siem Reap and Tara Boat includethe transport to Chong Kneas and back in the price.
If you are much more interested in using the services of regularCambodianpeople, you can do what I did and arrange this with a tuktuk driver.As I said, it was $25 for a sunset with no meals and drinks, but atleast you know that your money goes directly to the smaller players.
Other Tonle Sap Lake experiences
If Chong Kneas is somewhat too mild for your taste or you wish for amore intense Tonle Sap experience, consider making a trip to KampungPhluk, Kampung Khleang, or the Prek Toalbird sanctuary.
Kampung Phluk and Kampung Khleang are permanent river villages alsolocatedon the Tonle Sap lake. However, these villages are muchlarger than Chong Kneas and are less visited by tourists. Soyoucan get a somewhat more intimate experience with the villageandvillagers.
The Prek Toal tour is another Tonle Sap Lake experience, but moreinvolved as it will take at least the entire day and will possiblylast overnight. Prek Toal is a bio reserve and is the place for seeinga largenumber of birds. If birding is your thing, check out Sam Veasna andOsmosefor their ecotourism tour.
I have found that to individually arrange a trip to Prek Toal will costyou$120 or more. With SamVeasnaecotourism option and Osmose,you will be grouped with otherpeople so that drives the price down to $80 or so.
On a side note, the birds are visible only in the dry season.Youcan technically go year round, but just don’t expect lots of birdsightings.
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