An easy getaway from Phnom Penh, Kampong Chhnang is a beautiful way to experience the
Cambodian rural lifestyle and its diverse cultures and ways of living. Being situated on a river
near the Tonlé Sap lake, its waterfront is composed by different villages made of wooden
houses on stilts and floating villages. Besides that, various different ethnic groups live happily
side by side, a must see if you are looking for an authentic cultural experience in your travels.
More peaceful is impossible.
So rent a bicycle and come explore the different villages, going around slowly to allow you to
engage with the locals – you will definitely hear a lot of hellos while you are passing, so take
your time to stop and engage in some conversations. Try as well to understand where the
people came from, because in this area you will find different ethnic communities. Besides
Khmer people, like the majority of population in Cambodia, you can meet some Cham families,
Vietnamese and Kampuchea Krom, ethic Cambodians that before lived in the Delta Mekong
(now part of Vietnam but during Angkor era belonging to the Khmer empire).
Cham girl in front of her cute house.
One of the most interesting communities due to its differences to the other ethnic groups is
the Cham people. They were part of the old Champa empire (that stretched from Cambodia to
south Vietnam many years ago) and are mostly muslim and with different traditions. You can
notice this for instance in the clothes they wear, the bits of Arab language you can find from
time to time, and the presence of a mosque in the village (the only mosque on stilts that we
Mosque on stilts, definitely a reason to go back during rainy season to see people go praying by boat.
During the monsoons the whole area is flooded and people have to travel to their houses by
boat, but during dry season you can have a great time cycling on the road along the river and
see the different villages and their people.
Lifestyle by the river.
Explore the various roads near the canals more close to the city as well, for a glance on the
beautiful traditional wooden houses on stilts.
We want to live here.
Besides the architecture, this is a great way to meet the locals and their way of life. They are
mainly fishermen due to the proximity to the Tonlé Sap lake, the most important source of
protein in the country’s diet.
The lake is upstream from the river, so if you want is possible to ask any local owner of a boat
to bring you there, passing of course through the fascinating Vietnamese floating villages.
Great opportunity to work on your bargaining skills!
Floating village populated by Vietnamese families.
Other option is to cross the river by ferry to go to Kampong Leang, where you can hike the
Neang Kong Rei mountains or visit some ancient temples, built before the Angkor era. But if
you are more into relaxing mode, on the water front you can also find Phsar Krom, a series of
small roads filled with shops and street food stalls, and a nice promenade to walk or chill out
with the locals.
Kitsch sculptures on the river front.
Hope we gave you enough reasons to come explore these communities and floating villages, have a look on Camboticket website for options on how to get here!Read more
Stretching from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, the Tonlé Sap lake is a vast flooded area connected to the Mekong by the Tonlé Sap river, which during rainy season has its water increasing so much that becomes the largest lake in all Southeast Asia. Definitely worth a visit to observe the traditional lifestyle of its inhabitants, especially one of our favourite spots there, the Kampong Khleang floating village!
Relaxed life on the lake…
During the dry season Tonlé Sap’s water level can be 10 meters lower than during the peak monsoons, making an interesting sight exploring its many floating villages and communities with their houses built on stilts. One of them, Kampong Phluk, is already very much exploited by tourism and is being quite talked about in terms of scams (such as asking 40 dollars in a so-called entrance both in the village) and Chnong Khneas, the community in the part of the lake nearest to Siem Reap, is more like a tourist trap and profitable business for the boat and tour companies there than an interesting site to visit and a way to help the local community (typically the money don’t go much to the locals…)
Smiley kids on the entrance stairs of a local house.
But for the real thing, you can head to Kampong Khleang, a more authentic and less touristic village situated around 50 km from Siem Reap, around one hour by road or, if you are traveling along the Siem Reap-Phnom Penh highway, you can ask to be dropped off the bus on Dandek town, already quite near to the border of the lake and an easy place to find a tuk-tuk from there. This community is the largest one in the lake (around 10 times bigger than Kampong Phluk, for instance) and it’s the perfect place for observing the traditional life in Tonlé Sap. This lake is responsible for some of the main livelihoods in Cambodia, fishing and fish farming, and the fish caught here are the biggest source of protein in Cambodian diet and food culture. So don’t forget to eat some while you are there!
General view of Kampong Khleang during the dry season and from one of its streets.
You can explore the village by boat or foot depending on the season you go, and especially if you are going in the dry season you will be able to catch quite an impressive sight with all the houses built on 10 meter height stilts. From there you can take a boat tour with a local driver to go to a more central location of the lake where you will find other communities living in floating houses, lots of fishermen in their boats and even floating schools for their kids!
View while taking a boat trip along the main canal that leads Kampong Khleang to the larger lake.
It’s an ideal day trip from Siem Reap or, even better, to stay for a night or two in order to fully experience the village and its surroundings. There is at least one Homestay and restaurant in the community, a lovely wooden house refurbished in a stylist way, making it a great way to immerse yourself in the community while helping a local family. From there you can walk around and meet friendly locals, visit the market or the pagoda, enjoy a beautiful sunset by the lake and relax in a rural and authentic setting.
Sleeping a couple of nights in this cute house seems quite a welcoming experience.
If you are looking to mingle with the locals and experience the typical lifestyle of Cambodian people, the Kampong Khleang floating village will be a great addition to your trip, and an interesting way to explore the Tonlé Sap, the largest lake in all Southeast Asia. Have a look in the Camboticket website to know how to go there from Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, and don’t forget to ask the driver to be dropped off in Damdek, from there is just a short ride to the village. And share your pictures by the lake with us!Read more
So you finished to visit the Angkor Wat temples and don’t know what to do in Siem Reap after? Stick around for a couple of suggestions and alternative activities to do!Read more