After our first full day of temple touring we took a break and decided to go on a lake tour. We may have said before, we are not tour group people, we much prefer to do things on our own. However we found a company in Siem Reap that came highly recommended and advertised its small group tours. We booked a ½ day tour to Tonle Sap Lake through Beyond Unique Escapes. We would be heading to Kompong Khleang, a village that wasn’t commercial and touristy like the closer Chong Kneas. We were pleasantly surprised to find there would only be 5 of us on the tour for the day. We headed off in our air conditioned van around 7:30am with our driver and guide. Our first stop was a local market about 30 minutes outside of Siem Reap. Our guide showed us around and explained the different ways that the locals used and preserved fish. We also saw locals bringing their goods to the market as well as a food court of sorts with villagers eating their breakfasts.
Next stop was a local village where we were dropped off and walked through the “town” for about 30 minutes. The guide told us about the local village and the people there as well as explaining some of the customs. He called the village the “hello/goodbye village” because all the children ran to their doors to say hello followed right away with bye-bye. It was fun to see the smiles of the children, the men and women hard at work and the stilted homes. Tonle Sap Lake increases four times in size during the rainy season, helped by the melting snow from the Himalayas. Some of the huts, homes and even the road we were walking on would be covered with water in a few months.
After hopping back in the van we continued down the road about 10 minutes to the riverbank where we started a 1 hour trip onto the lake. We were able to see lots of fisherman and families setting up nets and traps as well as children playing in the water.
As we entered the main part of the lake we could see the floating village in the distance. Our longboat took us right into the floating village where families live for all but 3 months of the year when fishing is not allowed due to breeding. The life in the floating village was so different with children playing on their boat homes next to moms cooking and dads relaxing in hammocks after a morning of fishing. There was even a floating store or two as well as boats coming from town to bring supplies.
On our way back to Siem Reap our guide stopped to pick up some bamboo sticky rice for us all to try on the drive home. The snack was delicious and we were told that the village we bought it from was the only village in the area to make the specialty. The trip finished back in Siem Reap around 1:30pm. At $30 each it was a bit pricey, but well worth it to see true local villages and get out of town for the day.