Travel Report: The Lotus Farms, Siem Reap.
The Lotus Farms, Siem Reap.
It was a burning hot afternoon in Siem Reap as Sladja and I jumped out of the tuk tuk. Wow, was pretty much all I could say, as I drank in the landscape. For the most part, Siem Reap is an uncompromisingly dusty place. Thus we were delighted by this new panoramic, a thick blanket of pleasing green as far as the eye could see.
We’d travelled just twenty minutes from the centre of the city, where a series of lush lotus farms line Route 63, the main road towards Tonle Sap Lake. Each farm houses several gorgeous lakes that harvest the beautiful and versatile lotus plant.
A powerful symbol of purity throughout Asia, Cambodians use the plant as a key staple of Khmer cooking. Its seeds can be eaten raw, the stems find their way into salads and the flower itself acts as an attractive garnish. Oh, and it’s also a popular tea flavour. Moreover, the plant produces a fibre used for various products in the growing industry of eco-friendly textiles.
The Lotus Farms, Siem Reap.
I’d like to say we organised ourselves well that day. But that would be a lie. Rather, we simply told our driver “lotus farm”, figuring he’d know where to go. Sadly he seemed confused from the start. Furthermore, once we reached the farms, he offered no wisdom on where we should stop.
As far as we could see, none of the farms have individual names to tell them apart. Certainly not in English. As a result, we simply took a punt on a large, handsome farm that asked for just 2000 Riel per person as an entry fee. That’s about $0.50 each. Others, we later learned, are free to enter.
In addition to being operational farms, they also double up as hang out spots for tourists. In fact, you can come here and chill in one of the pretty wooden huts that line the water. Fitted with tables, cushions and hammocks, all you have to do is order some drinks, maybe even a bite to eat and you’re set for a couple of hours.
Lunch with a lotus lake view looked wonderful. If only we hadn’t already enjoyed a big meal at Krousar Cafe prior to our visit.
What To See & Do, Siem Reap.
If you’re not chilling, follow the path that winds around the lake. The entire place is incredibly picturesque, not least the idyllic wooden bridge that offers passage across a section of the water.
Right at the back of the farm, a dirt track extends out into the surrounding rice fields. Curious, we decided to follow it and take in the views before looping back towards the farm entrance.
To find out more about the industry of lotus farming, we jumped back into our tuk tuk for the short drive to Samatoa Lotus Farm Textiles. Launched in 2003, these guys are pioneers in the manufacturing of eco friendly, lotus-based textiles.
Lotus Farm by Samatoa, Siem Reap.
Samatoa owns a bunch of the lotus farms on Route 63, as well as this workshop, boutique and free-to-visit educational centre. On arrival, a friendly Khmer lady greeted us and took the time to show Sladja and I around.
With an infectious enthusiasm and a warm smile, she introduced us to a number of the centre’s resident spinners. The team is exclusively made up of local women from disadvantaged backgrounds. While we watched them at work, she gave us a fascinating demonstration of how skilfully they extract the fibre, before starting on the actual spinning.
It really is a meticulous process, especially when you realise they have to superimpose and roll a minimum of twelve layers of fibre in order to produce just a single high quality thread.
According to our host, the ladies here typically spin around two hundred and fifty metres of thread every day. To put this into context, an adult jacket requires around 12000 metres of fibre. That’s two months’ work for a spinner. And yes, she does everything by hand.
The Lotus Farms, Siem Reap.
Naturally, they’re hoping you’ll be impressed enough to pick up something from the onsite boutique. We bought some lotus tea, but they also have scarves, bags, jewellery, cosmetics, incense and high end shirts and dresses.
I’m not kidding when I say high end. The above dress was on sale for $725. The man’s shirt meanwhile could have been mine for a cool $690. Lovely pieces but a touch out of my price range.
Feeling all browsed out, we were pleased when our host led us upstairs to Samatoa’s rooftop cafe. Here, she treated us to lotus tea and cookies.
What’s more, the cafe has 360 degree views of the surrounding lotus fields and rice farms. Really pretty and a sublime spot for sunsets. For more on Lotus Farm by Samatoa, check out their website.
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What an amazing experience and such beautiful views. I could easily waste a few hours in those wooden huts!
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Definitely a unique way to spend an afternoon.
Looks like a place I would have enjoyed visiting if I had more time in Siem Reap. I was there for just 4 days so only made it to the more well known highlights. Next time!
Hey, thanks for reading! Hope you enjoy the next pieces, all of which are similarly under the radar.
Lovely pictures! Loved the farm houses!
Thanks for reading! Appreciate you taking the time to comment. 🙂
I had no idea the lotus was such a versatile plant. The thread and fabric making seems more intricate than silk production. What was the fabric like?
Mm, I’d say I could have mistaken the fabric for cotton. Really smooth and soft.
I went to a similar lotus farm in Taiwan (on the way to Tainan, I believe), but instead of witnessing the farmers spin the plant, I was treated to lotus juice, which was cool and refreshing in the summer heat. I had no idea that lotus could also be used for textiles, and it’s really incredible to see just how such products are made. So time-consuming, but so worth it in the end. Thanks for sharing a slice of Cambodia in this post!
Cool that you’ve had a similar experience! I’d love to spend some time exploring Taiwan one day…
Another excellent article on Siem Reap. Love the landscape and the hardworking ladies. Learned a few things bout the lotus flower too!
Thanks Stan, looking back I wish we’d taken the time to hang out in one of those huts for an hour or two.
This looks like such a beautiful place 😍
Thanks for dropping by Natty!
I’m so happy to see the Lotus farms – it’s such a lovely flower (which can be used for so many things)! And I do like the huts … such a clever tourist attraction. Thanks for showing us the textile workshop (I can understand why the clothes are so expensive – I would love a scarf made from the Lotus flower, but I guess that would also be out of my price range 👀). Great photos.
Hey Corna, thanks for checking out The Lotus Farms of Siem Reap. Buying a piece of lotus clothing would be a major luxury purchase, I can’t imagine they shift all that many to be honest. Still, getting an inside look at this fascinating industry was a lot of fun, even in the burning heat.
I’d love to visit the lotus farms Leighton!
Thanks for commenting Marion!
I love this! What a beautiful place to spend the day! It’s amazing how they can make so many things from a flower.
Right? Such an incredibly beautiful and versatile flower. Thanks for reading Lyssy!
I love these kinds of local experiences. Even though your driver did not seem to help much, it looks like you made out OK. What a sight to see such huge fields of lotus flowers. Thanks for sharing Leighton. Allan
Thanks Alan, it’s a beautiful and somewhat unusual landscape. Hope you are enjoying the summer!
Wow is right! Don’t get me wrong the temples you’ve written about are incredible, but I would say that this surpasses them by far! I really love how the lotus is not just pretty but used in so many different ways. I can’t even imagine what tedious work that must be to make one thread let alone create pieces of clothing with them. I also like with the lotus farm and the carvers from your previous post, that those who work there come from disadvantage and this work is a life line of a second chance at a future. Delightful post Leighton and probably my favorite of this series 🙂
Thanks so much Meg, your positivity oozes out of my screen. It is, as you say, heartwarming how so much of the local community benefits from this enterprise. You’re right about the clothing production too, absolutely painstaking. I remember just how concentrated those women were as they set about their spinning. It must be as mentally exhausting as it is physically. Thanks for reading!
Your photos are splendid; looks like a lovely place to spend some time. I could easily spend an afternoon in one of the huts, just soaking up the beautiful scenery. The artisan’s creations are truly stunning and probably worth every penny. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you, it really is such a peaceful spot to hang out. I could easily have fallen asleep in front of the fans in one of those huts.
Even though the tuk tuk driver didn’t know where to go you found a great lotus farm. Interesting to read the process to make thread, but you didn’t buy a $600 shirt? 😊 Maggie
Not sure I’ve ever paid over $100 for a shirt, so purchasing one of those babies would’ve set quite the personal record. Thanks for visiting Maggie!
Oh it’s beautiful – another one to add to my Cambodia list!!
Thanks for taking a look Hannah.
The lotus farms look beautiful, and that is neat that you can actually use them to cook with as well!
The lotus plant is pretty cool eh? Thanks for reading Allie.
Wow, I have never seen so many lotus flowers in one place. What a sight. I’ve never been to a Lotus Farm and seeing how beautiful they are, would love to visit one.
Hey Aiva, is seven months too late to reply to a comment? Ha ha. Sladja was reading a few old articles and told me there’s one I missed on the Lotus Farms. I had never seen a lotus farm before, haven’t seen once since and somehow imagine that I’m unlikely to ever see one again. Definitely one of those unique travel experiences! Thanks for reading and commenting and my apologies for this appallingly late reply.
After reading about how much work goes into one thread and then watching the video, I kept thinking about how much something made from lotus fiber would cost. Well, then you covered it in your visit to the boutique. High end, indeed. It just makes me wonder how much the workers are paid to do the spinning. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s not enough. Another interesting post. Thank you, Leighton!
That’s a very good question Kellye, yeah it can’t be very much. Especially bearing in mind their backgrounds. Thanks for visiting the lotus farms with me!
Wow, a lotus farm! Something I never knew existed, and they can make clothes from these plants, too. Amazing! I was is Siem Reap for a few days but missed this part. This is a wonderful discovery. If I get back there these farms will be on the itinerary for sure. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
Thanks John, these farms are underrated but fascinating sights. I’m guessing the Samatoa Workshop had a really rough pandemic but it looks like they rode it out and are open for business again. Thanks for reading!
The lotus farm looks very picturesque and beautiful. I had no idea they were such a useful flower.
Right? Not a single piece goes to waste. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!
Lotus flowers and plants are one of my favorites – I have a gazillion photos of them from a lake in Japan. The thatch structures reflecting are picturesque. How interesting about how the fibers are made. You can almost understand the cost, and considering there may be high end customers coming to see Ankhor Wat, but I’m guessing the workers don’t see much of that income. Thanks for sharing this interesting stop, Leighton.
I can only imagine how beautiful the lotus lakes of Japan must be. Thanks for the catch up Ruth, it’s much appreciated.
Thanks, hope you both are feeling better.