Travel Report: Kampong Phluk, Cambodia.
November 2015. The fascinating floating village of Kampong Phluk lies deep in the countryside of Siem Reap Province. From the city of Siem Reap it takes a couple of hours to get there by bus. The village is home to around three thousand people, most of whom are fishermen. Some living around the village farm for a living. My visit to this amazing place came on a day tour through a city tour agency. We set off on a minibus, jumped out in the middle of rural nowhere and followed our guide on foot to a waiting riverboat. Finally, we were ready for the approach to Kampong Phluk.
Chugging across the murky brown water, we soon reached the village, an amazing stretch of stilted homes set at about nine meters above water level.
Our first stop came at the community temple, where we disembarked and met some of the locals. There were lots of kids milling about, along with a few opportunistic teachers. These pesky adults followed us around with heartfelt pleas to buy schoolbooks, pens and other stationery. In contrast, the kids kept their distance and waited for us to approach them.
The children were adorable; shy, wide-eyed, polite and a little sad looking. Our guide told us that although they did receive an education of sorts, Kampong Phluk kids usually focus on learning how to handle boats, fix nets and progress in the skills of carpentry.
The village’s dustbowl main street felt like something out of a wild-west movie. Albeit some warped Asian version where there were no saloons and the locals laid out mats of freshly caught shrimp to dry out in the sun.
Kampong Phluk’s main street is always deserted in the day, due to the fact that most people are on the river working on their boats. Others are fishing out on nearby Tonlé Sap. As a result, we could stroll down the street with ease, admiring the houses. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a gaggle of children shot across the road with a rickety old bike.
This father and son caught my attention too. They were sitting at the foot of the ladder that led up to their humble abode. The air was a little smoky from a nearby pile of burning rubbish, because that’s how the locals handle their garbage. The man was so serious-looking I was half expecting him to reprimand me for taking their picture. However, as I gave him a thank you smile, he returned the gesture with a somber nod of his own. Then he rose, and headed up the ladder with the little one in his arms.
Beyond Kampong Phluk lies the wide expanse of Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. There’s also an amazing floating forest, where local chauffeurs guide you through in a canoe at $5 a pop. It only takes fifteen minutes, however the trip is highly atmospheric and so peaceful. Actually, there wasn’t a sound to be heard besides the paddles sloshing through the water. It was quite the experience to glide among the gnarled trees, with beams of sunlight slanting through the green canopy above.
A range of online and local tour operators organise tours of Kampong Phluk and Tonlé Sap. Check out Viator for a range of options.
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