Northwestern - Siem Reap, Water & Coasts

Follow the the Siem Reap waters

A village on Tonle Sap Lake as the storm approaches (Régis Binard)
A village on Tonle Sap Lake as the storm approaches (Régis Binard)

Cool off on a boat ride from Siem Reap, and get to know this region of Cambodia from a different point of view. Tonle Sap Lake, part of the Mekong River system, is the largest freshwater body of water in South-East Asia and is a thriving habitat for floating villages and a biodiverse ecosystem. UNESCO-listed Biosphere Reserve, the massive lake is framed by the Dângrêk Mountains to the north and the Cardamom Mountains to the southwest.

The locals who inhabit these floating villages have adapted their lifestyles over centuries as the lake’s waters swell and recede depending on the season. Homes are built on stilts or on floating rafts, and boats glide around the communities and through flooded forests. The village of Chong Kneas is closest to Siem Reap and therefore the most frequently visited, but you can also venture farther out to the fishing villages of Kompong Phluk and Kompong Khleang for less- crowded experiences. And if you want to get the full picture of life on the water, stay overnight in the floating village of Prek Toal, just a few paddles away from Southeast Asia’s largest bird sanctuary, a true paradise for waterbird watchers.

Floating house on the Sangker River (All Dreams Cambodia/shutterstock)

More intrepid travellers can make the journey from Siem Reap to historic Battambang by boat. It’s a slow-paced way to go, spending several hours winding through the Tonle Sap lake and along the Sangker River amidst all the natural elements.

While Siem Reap is far from the coast, flowing rivers and fresh waters have influenced entire communities throughout the region — shaping their culture, industries and ways of life. Come experience a day or more in the lives of locals by way of the waters.

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