The Water World of Chong Khneas, A Floating Village at Siem Reap, Cambodia

floating village-siem reap
A mother breast feeding a newly born child while paddling her way towards a boat carrying tourists. Once she reached the side of the boat, she will call the attention of everyone and signal to her sleeping baby.

Then there was this small girl inside a metal tub floating in the lake while bravely holding a live snake. She will play with the snake as if it just an ordinary rope. While on the other side, a young boy started dancing and making funny faces.
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap

They move closer to any incoming tourist boats. They fight their way with each other to secure the best spot never minding the danger of the waters. All they wanted is for you to take notice and give them a dollar.
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap

Is this the kind of tourism in South East Asia that we are promoting and looking for?

I feel confused. I feel sad. I am in awe while sitting at the boat and watching all this baffling action takes place. I was told that visiting this community is one of the “must do” in Siem Reap and but this is not what I expected.

I don’t blame them; I know they needed to earn money for their families but sometimes there has to be a line drawn between tourism and just plain exploitation.

Welcome to Chong Kneas Floating Village. A water world located south of Siem Reap.
For a 20 USD entrance fee, you will witness something that will surely elate a mixed reaction.
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap

The residence of the floating village are mainly immigrants from neighboring Vietnam, who crosses the Mekong River in search for a better life and decided to call Tonle Sap as their home.
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap

They don’t move inland even if the water increases beyond safety level. Instead, they move within the premise of the river, relocating their homes and their lives depending on the condition of the tides.
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap

They are mainly fishermen. The water is their lifeline. This is their source of income and a reason of existence. This is life for them and to be at the water is as natural as it could be.
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap

Setting aside the confounding aspect of tourism associated with this floating village, in a way it is surprising to see how this community in water flourished- they have shops, church and most importantly, school.
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap

Seeing these kids paddling on their own toward home after their school session is very inspiring, a proof of how important education is for them and I truly, truly hope that all their significant effort will lead to a better future.
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap

After an hour, the tour is completed and time to head back to the ferry terminal. Our boat made a brief turn towards the open sea, how I wish I could stay longer and stare at this view.

It was almost sunset and the magnificent cloud formation mirrored by the calmness of the sea is beyond beautiful, a good way to reflect about another day spent exploring Siem Reap .
floating village-siem reap
floating village-siem reap

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12 thoughts on “The Water World of Chong Khneas, A Floating Village at Siem Reap, Cambodia

  1. Nice post. I also visited a floating village and had very mixed feelings about the whole experience. Generally, I felt the most conflicted about the tourism industry in Cambodia than anywhere else in SEA. So many tours try to combine charity and school visits which can be very harmful.

    • thanks Lydia!
      totally agree with your observations, I hope in due time things will change..

    • thanks Cornelia!
      the image of those kids rowing themselves back and forth from their floating school will never be erased in my mind..so young yet so brave.I wish them very best in life..

  2. I am so excited I stumbled across your blog. I’m planning a trip to Southeast Asia this spring and love love love your photos. I can’t wait to see what else you photograph!

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