4D/3N Backpacking Siem Reap : A Visit to Tonle Sap Lake & Kampong Phluk Floating Village

Cruising through the murky river, our young captain steadily manoeuvred the boat towards Tonle Sap Lake. All we did was to enjoy the warm breeze and beautiful scenery before us. We passed by several other boats ferrying other visitors along the way too and happily waved at them. Information on our tuk tuk ride from Siem Reap, the entrance ticket and boat ride fee has been shared in my previous blog post here.

The Mighty Tonle Sap – The Largest Freshwater Lake In Asia

Our jaws dropped in awe as we entered Tonle Sap Lake from the edge of the river. Calling it a lake does not do justice to its massive size for the lake does not look like a lake at all! In fact, it looked more like an ocean instead. The lake was so large that we could not see land in the horizon. All we could see was water, water and water everywhere.

 Not only its size was overwhelming, the strong winds and possibly strong currents underneath created little waves on the surface of the lake, thus giving it an ocean-like appearance. For a moment there, my sister and I thought our captain purposely made a detour or a wrong turn and ended up at the ocean instead! Thankfully, that was not the case.

Our boat made a 10-15 minutes stop at Tonle Sap Lake, just enough time for some women waiting on smaller boats nearby to get closer to us. They came bringing a variety of drinks, snacks and souvenirs for sale. My sister and I politely declined their offer even though they were very persuasive and persistent for we had enough snacks and water for the entire day. After that, we made our way to the houses on stilts and floating village of Kampong Phluk.

The mighty Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap


A vendor selling packets of snacks and drinks to visitors at Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap

To The Floating Village Of Kampong Phluk, Instead Of Chong Khneas

You might wonder, why did I choose to visit the less heard of Kampong Phluk instead of the much popular Chong Khneas village? Well, the answer is pretty simple. Prior to my trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia, I have researched online for various tourist traps or scams to take note of when in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

As you guessed or already know, they are quite a number of tourist traps or scams that we should know before venturing into the country. Read my compilation of the Cambodian tourist traps or scams here*. One of it is the overpriced tour and donation extortion (of rice, milk, books and stationeries for the underprivileged) by unscrupulous individuals or tour operators at Chong Khneas. Many travellers and visitors to that village wrote negative reviews of their unpleasant experience on TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and Rough Guides to name a few and I do not wish to be their next target or victim.

Another reason is Chong Khneas village has become much touristy, over commercialised and overrated over the years. I personally prefer to visit places which are less touristy and are hidden gems waiting to be explored. A place with fewer tourists is a preferred option as I do not need to fight the crowd and is able to have a better experience. A much lesser known and quieter village of Kampong Phluk caught my attention, so I decided to visit the village.

The floating village of Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap

The Floating Village – Of Boat-Houses, Traditional Houses On Stilts & Happy Children

From Tonle Sap Lake, our boat made a turn into the mouth of a large river nearby. Finally, we got what we come for; the famous boathouses and traditional houses on stilts! It was an unforgettable sight! First, we saw several scattered individual buildings built on stilts on the bank of the river. A few metres away, some children were seen playing happily in the water.

Children these days especially those who living in the cities do not have such a privilege like those children have. Here, at the village of Kampong Phluk, play time was aplenty for the children to learn and grow up to be strong adults. The fact that most of them live in poverty and lead a simple life without modern conveniences did not dampen their zest for life. Seeing those happy children was a sight pleasant to the eyes and warming to the heart.

The scenery took a drastic change as we entered the village. The entire village of Kampong Phluk was made up of houses on stilts, some up to two storeys high and boathouses floated in close proximity! It was a sight to behold! It was a sight uncommon in the cities. It was a sight uniquely Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The villagers, young and old were busy tending to their daily activities. The men who are mostly fishermen went to catch fish at the lake whereas the women stayed behind to look after the children. Some were seen harvesting home-grown vegetables planted in plastic containers made from plastic bottles on their cleverly devised, mobile farms built on floating platforms! Ingenious indeed!! That way, not only did they have a fresh supply of vegetables, it was environmentally friendly too. I was very impressed with their brilliant creation. This proves that people can be very creative and resourceful in order to survive and make ends meet.

Probably the municipal building of Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
The first thing that caught our eye on our way to Kampong Phluk was this striking traditional building on stilts
These buildings look like a school or the village’s communal building
Carefree children playing by the riverbank of Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
A traditional house on stilts in Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
More houses on stilts on the riverbank of Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap as we got closer to the village
Can you imagine yourself living in a simple and basic house like these?
Young children are independent enough to go to school by their own
One of the many interesting structures at Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
Most of the houses at Kampong Phluk are at least 2-storeys high. This shows how high the water level can rise during the wet season in Siem Reap
The rustic village of Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
Uniquely Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
Fyi, farm animals such as chickens, ducks and pigs are sometime reared/kept on the lower floor of the building/house
An old woman tending her vegetable farm built on a floating platform, with vegetables grown in plastic containers made entirely from recycled plastic bottles. Ingenious indeed!
A typical sight when the tide/water level is low during the dry season
A tourist cruising on the boat through Kampong Phluk
My sister and I were greeted by an oppa gangnam style-welcome 🙂
The village children having lots of fun; floating in their tubs with unlimited swimming sessions at Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
What I think is a mini fish farm in Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
Carefree and happy are the children at the floating village of Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
The young were allowed to paddle their own boats without any any adult supervision at the village
The woman was hanging her clothes before being interrupted by our presence
An interesting sight like this awaits visitors to Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
The villagers store firewood for cooking and keeping warm under their houses
A typical scene from a floating fishing village of Kampong Phluk
Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Children playing tag on the boats at Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
Probably a water taxi, ferrying the villagers to school or nearby villages
The poor live on single-storey houses, barely above the water level just like this at Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
A floating platform littered with traditional funnel fish traps (known as bubu) at Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
Nothing stops these girls from going to school in hopes of a better future at Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
The huge bamboo cages by the riverbank are used to keep farm animals such as chickens, ducks and pigs at Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
A very basic boathouse at Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
A better boathouse at Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap
A floating house at Kampong Phluk, Siem Reap

*Blog post to be shared soon!

Up next: Cruising on a “sampan” through the picturesque enchanted flooded forest, and walking amongst the tress on the sky-high platform walkway of Kampong Phluk

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