Cambodia // Battambang and the northwest //

The floating villages

The floating villages on the Tonle Sap lake make for a rewarding half-day excursion from Kompong Chhnang. The town is the principal fishing port for Phnom Penh, and throughout the year supplies of fresh fish are packed with ice and loaded daily onto a fleet of trucks to drip their way towards the city. The fishing families, primarily ethnic Vietnamese, live on the lake on Phoum Kandal, almost within touching distance of the shore, and Chong Kos, further out over the waters to the northwest – both far less touristy than the floating villages around the north end of the lake near Siem Reap (see Phnom Krom). Locals offer village tours in tiny wooden boats, rowed standing up – quoted prices can be on the high side, but, with a little persistence, can usually be bargained down.

The villages themselves are a fascinating sight, with each house floating upon its own miniature pontoon fashioned out of lashed-together bamboo trunks and other wooden flotsam. Dwellings are arranged around a neat grid of miniature “streets” busy with small fishing vessels, rowing boats and other craft, while tiny children paddle themselves, seated in large cooking pots, between the buildings. Some of the houses are little better than floating sheds; others are surprisingly luxurious, with comfortably furnished interiors complete with TVs and generators, their roofs sprouting satellite dishes and their pontoons festooned in miniature gardens of potted plants.