On the shores of the Tonle Sap lake, 15km south of the Cambodian city of Siem Reap, there is a community of people whose lives ebb and flow with the currents of the 4000km-long Mekong River – which feeds Tonle Sap. It is Chong Kneas floating village.
The canal is overlooked by the hill of Phnom Krom to the north on which sits an Angkorian temple dedicated by King Yasovarman around about 900BC. Chong Kneas is the floating village at the edge of the lake closest and most accessible to Siem Reap. If you want a relatively quick and easy look at the Tonle Sap, boat tours of Chong Khneas are available, departing from the Chong Khneas boat docks all day long. Dozens of boats line the canal, some hoisted up on dry docks, some clearly past their float-by date, some yet to make their first voyage, but most clustered towards the port at the top, jostling for the attention of the company that now has control of Chong Kneas and doles out the rights to transport tourists. Indochina tours
The boat trip usually includes two stops: one at a touristy floating ‘fish and bird exhibition’ with a souvenir and snack shop, and the other at the very highly recommended Gecko Environment Centre, an informative exhibition that is located in the floating village and helps to unlock the secrets of the Tonlé Sap. It has displays on flora and fauna of the area, as well as information on communities living around the lake.
Chong Kneas features absurdities such as small kids sporting huge water snakes and so-called crocodile farms which in reality are small ponds where dozens of crocodiles are crammed together. This farm is probably the ‘highlight’ of the Chong Kneas visit (other than the village and the lake itself). The fish farm is a catfish farm and visitors have the chance to feed them. There is a crocodile farm with about ten crocodiles right next to the fish farm. Most of them hide, but you can still see some of them clearly, whether they are sleeping or yawning. Tours in Cambodia
The village moves depending on the season and you will need to rent a boat to get around it properly. After a fifteen-minute drive you enter the actual lake and start seeing water dwellings: private houses, shops, garages, churches, temples, schools etc floating around more or less in harmony.
People in these floating village communities make a living off of what the lakes provide: fishing, boat making, shrimp farming, crocodile farm, etc. It is fully-functioning community with watery streets, boats in the place of cars, floating schools, markets, hospital clinics, a generator for electricity.