For most Cambodians, life is based around water. Even though much of the country is a landlocked jungle, it also contains the largest fresh water lake in the SE Asia – Tonlé Sap Lake. This lake is fed by the mighty Mekong River, and can rise and fall by as much as 10 meters between seasons.
Much of the population of Cambodia uses the Mekong River and Tonlé Sap River as part of their daily lives. Many of them work on, commute on, feed on and live on the mighty rivers, and the lake it forms. Some of these people live in small floating villages along the river and on the lake. Kampong Phluk is one of those villages.
Kampong Phluk is accessible after a short tuk-tuk ride from Siem Reap, which is close to Angkor Wat. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the waters edge, depending on the season. Once you’re there, you can charter a small boat that will ferry you to the village. The view along the waterway is very interesting too.
During the wet season May – October, the water in the lake rises substantially, and the village houses are often flooded. Houses are built about 10 meters off the ground, but sometimes the water level will be above that.
During the dry season, the water levels drop dramatically, making the houses very high off the ground. The land that was once covered in lake water is dry and lifeless. The village ceases to be a floating village and becomes a stilted village. Both seasons are good for visiting these villages, but I prefer to see it when it’s dry, because there is a lot more to photograph.
A young boy sits on his hammock underneath his home in Kompong Phluk, outside Siem Reap, Cambodia.
The pace of life changes when the dry season kicks in. The daily attention switches from fishing to tourism. More tourists will arrive, and they need to be catered to. I find it easier to get great photos of the villages and their people, when I can walk through the villages, rather than sitting in a small boat.
Young brothers on their way home from school, in Kompong Phluk village, outside Siem Reap, Cambodia.
When you do visit, you’ll be presented with lots of photography opportunities. The villagers will usually just go about their own business, like repairing houses, boats, and nets. Children will be playing on the dry land between their homes, and attend school during the day.
I think any visit to Siem Reap for an Angkor adventure should include this short journey. Seeing how Cambodians live off the lake is both educational and picturesque. It’s definitely worth the visit.
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