Tonle Sap lake is the lifeblood of Cambodians not in the tourism industry. There are many villages whose primary source of income is from the lake. The closest village to Siem Reap, Chong Kneas, has become a tourist scam which charges visitors for a boat ride and a visit to a school, but that money does not get passed on to the villagers. We instead headed further out to Kampong Khleang.
The village sees very few tourists, however, the people who run the pier have caught onto the game of charging tourists for boat rides and not helping out the locals. After a quick stop at the pier, we walked around the town.
All of the houses are elevated on stilts because the water levels can rise as much as 40 feet during the rainy season.
The streets are all lined with drying fish and the air smelled sure smelled like it.
While walking through the streets the children would wave and say hello.
They were very excited because they don’t see many tourists, especially not ones walking through their town. One little girl really took a liking to us and led us to her doorstep. We saw her father’s boat behind the house and asked through an intermediary whether he would be willing to take us out for a ride. We agreed on a price and hopped on his little, rickety boat not sure if we made a great decision or a terrible one.
Our tour took us to another village that is actually a floating village with no land base.
People live on house boats with kitchens, beds, and some even with satellite dishes.
The women of the village are responsible for separating the fish they caught from their nets and do so using an interesting slapping technique.
We learned that there is some resentment between the floating villagers and the village we departed from because people with stable houses are better off economically. From our perspective, both ways of life are very special and we were appreciative to have the opportunity to see their traditional lifestyles and help out a local family.