- Mario Ng
Day Trip to Kampong Khleang Floating Village
When we decided to head to Siem Reap, we believed there is more to Siem Reap than just Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples. Don’t get us wrong, as we are in awe of the structures. The time we spent at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom will always remain with us. It was truly a beautiful day.
Having said that, we wanted to discover Siem Reap in a more in-depth manner. We want to find out more about the local lifestyle, and how Cambodians really live, outside from the eyes of tourists. We did some research and found out more about Tonle Sap. It is basically a huge body of water, which many Cambodians rely on, for their essential needs. This especially includes the sea creatures in it. It is basically their main source of food. This is also why most famous dishes in Cambodia are associated with the humble fish.
When we dug in further, we discovered Kampong Khleang. It is a floating village, where its residents live by the sea, on the sea, and dry ground, every year. What this means is that due to seasonal changes, the water level will rise or fall accordingly. As such, there will come a time whereby their main mode of transport is via a boat. It is their way of life. This is something unique to the communities living by Tonle Sap, and we were keen to find out more.
We discovered a tour agency, Triple A Cambodia, that provides tours to Kampong Khleang. The part that we really like about this agency is that it works with local communities so that profits earned from tourism can flow back to the communities. This is surely sustainable tourism at its best. They were also able to offer a tour that comprises a visit to Kampong Khleang, together with a visit to a local town. The unique part of this local town is that it is just an ordinary town in Cambodia. What? You saw that right. The attractiveness of this town is basically to give visitors a chance to see the real Cambodia, how people live their lives in the rural areas, far away from the bustling lights in town. We would be able to take a look at their markets, malls, and schools. All the places they promoted are authentic, which means that real Cambodians live there, instead of simply being a tourist attraction. We know that some agencies use this method to offer tours, which we were keen to avoid. We promptly booked a tour with this agency to pay a visit to this unique way of life. Click here to find out more about this tour agency!
Day of the Tour:
On that day, a bus came to pick us up at our hotel, before picking other passengers up as well, before heading off for the tour proper.
A tour of the countryside, away from the bustling sights of downtown Siem Reap. Right here, we get a peek into the daily lives of rural Cambodians. We were given bicycles and cycled around the small town, with the guide sharing with us more about the town. Much like other towns, they have schools and markets, among other essential services. Yet, it is still intriguing as to how their market operates. Fresh seafood, vegetables, and other preserved food are for sale, and they go about their lives as we walk among them (really just disturbing them!). Alongside the market, is also their version of a mall. Stalls selling jeans, t-shirts, and other clothes are for sale, and it was interesting to see a food stall beside a clothing stall. Such is the way of life in Cambodia! It was also nice to see that some stall owners appreciate our presence, and are relatively cheerful. Were we glad they did not feel we were intruding!
We were also given a tour of their elementary school, where children can be seen hard at work, trying their best to concentrate, while the teachers are ever-ready to spot the mischievous child. It certainly brought back memories of our time in school!
The first part of the tour was insightful, and certainly gave us a glimpse of what Siem Reap is really about. Here, there are no pretenses. They are just ordinary people working, studying, and trying to make a living. This is indeed what Cambodia is about.
After the morning impression of a local town of Siem Reap, we were set to head to the main highlight of the day: Kampong Khleang Floating Village. It was about an hour’s bus ride before we started heading into the village proper. At that time of the year (January), the water levels were not that high. Therefore, while some places required the use of a boat, there was still quite a lot of dry land that required automobiles. The terrain became considerably rougher, and the bus slowed down quite a bit. Before long, we have arrived at our destination. Quite frankly, it was quite the treat, as we don’t think we have seen such a view before. This is really living by the sea, as rows of houses were set up by each other, each with their own boat, all ready for the water levels to rise.
We were directed to a boat and given a tour around Kampong Khleang. Young boys and girls were driving their own boats on the way to school, while other adults were busy transporting various goods across the town. Over here, a car is no good.
Soon after, we set off to a local home for lunch. Right at this tour, the company engages real homeowners at Kampong Khleang. The aim is to make use of tourism to profit the community. Hence, meals are always provided by the locals, in a bid to engage tourists with the community. It was interesting and certainly real, as we see how a real Kampong Khleang home looks like. Lunch was good, as pork was also served. Remember that Cambodians usually rely on fish for their protein needs. Meat is usually served for guests. We were truly honoured!
At the home, our hosts shared with us that there was a year whereby the water levels rose higher than expected, and all the homes were partially flooded. The occupants could only sleep on the upper deck of their homes, which is just a small attic. Whatever furniture they could shift, were brought up as well. Whatever they could not, were unfortunately destroyed. We were shown a mark that could be seen throughout the house, which represents the height of the water level reached.
We were also given the opportunity to rest after lunch, giving us the chance to take an all-important afternoon nap. There are mats available, as well as the star: a hammock. This is certainly the prized possession of many Cambodians. Even in their homes, these are needed. We were told that while extremely comfortable, one cannot sleep overnight using the hammock. Rather, we can only sleep overnight on a bed or a mat. The reason is due to the curve of the hammock. Sleeping in such a manner will cause the spine to curve over time, causing severe back problems. Hence, they cannot sleep in a hammock overnight, however comfortable it may seem. This is indeed a good piece of advice!
After that, we bid our kind hosts adieu, and got back onto our transport. Now, we would be on an hour-long boat ride, as we sail through Tonle Sap, heading towards the Vietnamese Floating Village. Unlike Kampong Khleang, these homes are actually floating on the seas, without any stilts or structures drilled down into the ground.
As we sailed towards the floating village, the scenery changed to show a lot of farmland. At that time of the year, farmers were busy preparing the lands for a new season. Farming equipment could be seen sporadically around the lands, and buffaloes were busy working hard for their owners. As far as the horizon stretched, there was nothing but farmland. High-rise buildings are non-existent over here. It was refreshing as the sea breeze blew against our faces, and the air smelled really good. No toxins whatsoever could be smelled. We could really get used to such air!
As we arrived at the village, we saw schools, markets, and provision shops. All of them are simply floating about, with boats tied by their side. Quite obviously, the occupants rely only on boats as their sole mode of transport. It is truly one-of-a-kind, and quite unlikely you will find something similar anywhere in the world!
We were told by the guide that Tonle Sap is vital to Cambodia, with the vast majority of their seafood coming from this body of water. It is worth noting as well, that this huge body of water flows into Phnom Penh as well, and what you see on Sisowath Quay, used to flow from Tonle Sap. Wow! River systems FTW!
After this, we headed back to Kampong Khleang, as we marvelled yet again by the architectural marvel of a floating village, both figuratively and literally.
By this time, we were quite tired already. It had been a long day, with it being hot and humid as well. On the way back to Siem Reap, we were then pleasantly surprised when the bus stopped on the roadside. Out we went, as we were instructed to try a local delicacy. Sticky rice stuffed in bamboo is the highlight of the day. Cooked over a fire, quite a few vendors are selling these on the highways. It is simple yet tasty. Much like glutinous rice, this dish has its own particular flavour. Yum!
After this short, pleasantly surprising detour, we then headed back to Siem Reap, where all of us departed the tour, each of us having enjoyed a fulfilling tour exploring real Siem Reap!
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