A City on Water – Kompong Khleang

I definitely needed a break from the temples today and decided to take an excursion to one of the floating villages.  A few couchsurfers and I got the tip from a local couchsurfer telling us not to go to the nearby village of Chong Khneas, telling us that it was solely developed for tourists and a complete trap.  Thus, we headed out to the distant Kompong Khleang 35 km away from Siem Reap.

Look how high those stilts are!!

The tuk tuk drive out to the village was peaceful and we saw a lot of the countryside.  The road into the town was a tough dirt road, which ended up being our downfall later that evening.  The houses that lined the path were all on stilts to protect themselves during the wet season.  I was impressed by the height, probably 5-6 meters tall, but nothing compared to those along the river bank, which towered almost 10 meters.

A couple of the children who hounded me for 1000 riel

We were told that a boat should be $15 and when we were quoted the price of $20 each (utterly ridiculous!) we decided to take a walk through the village to get them to reconsider their offer.  I was hounded by the adorable children asking me for 1000 riel, 1000 riel, 1000 riel.  I fell in love with them right away and I was actually disappointed I didn’t have any riel with me, although that probably wouldn’t have been the best idea to cultivate their ideas that tourists should give them money.  I loved the feel of the little town, there was even a little ice cream cart going around.  All the houses were hoisted up on huge stilts, townies were lazing around, and life in the village seemed to be pretty good. 

On the river heading to the floating village

After much negotiation, we lowered the price to $35 for the entire boat and were soon puttering down the river towards the Tonlé Sap lake.   There were so many great photographic opportunities along the river, many boats passing, pigs playing around in the mud, children splashing in the water, and field workers coming home from a hard days work.

About 20 minutes later, we were faced with the opening to the huge lake and soon enough encountered the floating village for the first time.   

A cluster of homes in the floating village

What an incredible way to live!  Taking a boat to the market.  To see your friends.  To have dinner.  Pretty much, taking a boat to do anything.  We spotted pigs, dogs, and chickens hanging on these large house boats.  Some houses were bigger than others.  Some were by themselves while others were located in clusters.  Live moved around just like it would on land.

Watching the sunset from our boat

We passed through the village and decided to take a break to watch the sunset.  It was crazy.  The ocean and the sky melded into one and it literally looked like we were at the edge of the earth.  It was a really eerie feeling.  Not know what was out there and the toxic green water of the lake made us wonder what was beneath us as well.  It was pretty cloudy so the sunset wasn’t too dramatic, but it was still an incredibly peaceful setting to be in.  Chilling in a lake, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, in a floating village, in Cambodia somewhere.  Who would have thought I would be here??

A closeup of one of the floating houses

We got a little more up close and personal view of the village on the way back and actually stopped a store to get some fuel.  Unfortunately, it was getting dark and I was unable to use a shutterspeed fast enough to counteract the movement of the boat (I don’t like using flash in these situations because I believe that it is intrusive) so I didn’t get as many up close shots as I would have liked.

We made it back to the village and were soon on our way back to Siem Reap.  Or so we thought.  A few minutes down the road our driver pulled over and told us to get out.  Panic rushed through my body as I thought he was going to leave us in the pitch darkness, in the middle of nowhere, and no way to get back, but then I remembered, we hadn’t paid him yet, so there was no way he would leave.  He pointed to his tire and we noticed it was completely flat.  Great.

About an hour and a half later, and after I intently watched the way they attempted to fix this tire, first by sewing, then some weird goop like substance, then a patch, and ultimately just changing out the tire completely, we were on our way back to Siem Reap again.  While we were waiting, we had stopped in a small area of town where the boys were viciously playing around whipping a wet towel at each other.  Boys will be boys anywhere in the world.  I stayed far away for I wanted no part in that and wished I could have meandered around a bit more, but alas the town had barely any electricity, and wandering around would surely get me lost.

It was an absolutely amazing experience, although I would have loved to spend more time on the lake weaving through the houses and checking out everything they had there, but then again, I wouldn’t want someone sneaking through my backyard.

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22 thoughts on “A City on Water – Kompong Khleang

  1. Wow… kudos to making it onto the front page, it’s so inspiring to read your entries because you’re practically living my dream!

    I am planning on doing something similar once I graduate from college this summer… if everything goes according to plan then I will be traveling around Spain & Portugal for a year.

    I look forward to hearing more about your experiences in my neck of the woods! (I was born in Singapore, haha)

  2. Where did you take those photographs? In Bangladesh, there are lots of huts that is built on water; just like the first photo of this post. I wonder how do they sleep inside those houses forgetting the fear of falling down into the water.

  3. I have a blog dealing with houseboats and minimalist living lifestyles. I enjoyed this post very much and would like to have your permission to post a couple of the pictures on my blog and link the story as well. All with attribution, of course.

    • Absolutely, although I don’t think these houses are like anything you’d ever construct! Very simple and minimalistic! But I guess they work just fine for the Cambodians!

  4. fantastic post. Traveling beyond the typical is most certainly the way to go. As is couchsurfing. Wonderful photos. Here’s wishing you many more interesting and inspiring travels.

  5. Nice images and writing. We were in Siam Reap about 10 years ago…the temples were spectacular, and the tourist trade was just starting to build. We did not get out into the local scene too much beyond the house where we were staying (bed/breakfast sort of place with 3 rooms). There was a funeral next door with someone beating very slowly a drum most of a day, and mourners crying…loud pained crying. It was very moving.

  6. Thanks for an interesting blog and superb pictures. It brought back memories of similar (but not quite so exciting!) experiences in Thailand. Quite amazing these houses on stilts and as you say, nowhere to go except by boat!

  7. i know this city has proably sufferd from a lot but the pictures you guys show people it lookes like your fine but it looks like this city dose not get taken care of so they should get money for their city because it looks like they half to get money.

  8. So I have to ask, what do you think happens when there is some type of storm that rolls through? It’s not like those things are anchored down. Do they go to shore and wait it out or what? Did you see any of them actually fishing in the water there and just bringing it up and cooking? It’s amazing they aren’t using timber and masonry. I think I would prefer a yacht to live on, but thats just me 🙂

  9. Hi,
    I am planning to go to Siem Reap in 3 weeks…I was hesitating between Kompong Khleang and Chong Kneas but now I have made my choice and I will definitely go to Kompong Khleang…
    I wanted to know how did you find your driver? Did you organize it at your arrival in Siem Reap in one of those agencies there? At what time did you leave Siem Reap to go to Kompong Khleang? Was it a full day tour or a half day tour?
    Thanks for taking the time to reply to me,
    Emilie

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