One of the most important attractions in the Tonlé Sap lake area is Chong Khneas, a floating village with a particular charm. Here’s what you should know before you get there.
The Context of Chong Khneas
Due to the specific climate in Cambodia, people living close to Tonlé Sap experience regular floods. Those in Chong Khneas have adapted to the point where they have built floating houses to reduce the impact of the wet season, when water levels rise. From the tourist’s point of view, such a solution is poetic and full of grace. For them, it’s almost a sad reality and you should be well aware of that. As a second note, keep in mind that being visited so often, villagers have developed a sort of reluctance to tourists passing in boats just in front of their houses every other half an hour.
Houses Moving Around
Up to a point, Chong Khneas does have a certain planning, but houses can be moved from one place to another. To do that, local people pull houses using boats. This permanent possibility of change, the fact that there’s an inconsistent plan of the village, the water, and, last but not least, the contrast between the poor houses in the village and their colorful accessories makes Chong Khneas a great attraction.
The floating school in Chong Khneas is particularly interesting. It’s a two-story building, made of wood. At the second level there’s a basketball court for the kids. Seeing those kids playing basketball on a huge floating building is impressive and inspiring altogether.
How to Get There
The village is close to Siem Reap (around 30 minutes). If you travel by boat from Phnom Penh or Battambang, this is where you dock. From Siem Reap, take a tuk tuk, or a taxi. You should plan this trip for an afternoon and try to be there by sunset. The light and the life in the village at this hour create a unique context you need to see and experience.
Once you’re there, take one of the local boats to inspect the village further. The whole ensemble is not really large and half an hour should suffice for a smooth visit at a small pace.
How to Behave in Chong Khneas
Most tourists reaching Chong Khneas are so curious that they forget local people are just living one regular day at the time of their arrival and, unintentionally and unwillingly, they act in an intrusive manner. Follow the tips below to make sure you have a pleasant experience and you don’t bother local people with your visit:
- Shoot photos of sceneries, rather than portraits. If you still want to take photos of people, use a telephoto lens or optic zoom.
- Don’t interfere with their life. If you want a specific thing, ask your guide. He should be able to help you if you want to talk to a local person, learn about their fishing techniques, or ask them how’s life in the wet season.
- Don’t shout every time you are impressed with a new house or building.
- Don’t shoot movies with your camera or smartphone. They’re not in a movie.
- Visit a fish and crocodile farm. They are open to tourists and you can get many answers to your questions from there whilst experiencing a bird’s eye view of the village from the 3rd story.