Cambodia still houses many floating villages. With most being around Tonlé Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.
The easiest way to experience a floating village is taking a day trip from Siem Reap. On that particular tour, you’d visit the floating village of Chong Khneas, which is about 30 minutes away by vehicle. I decided to do something a tad different and went for a floating village further south, closer to Phnom Penh, called Kampong Luong.
Any bus going towards Phnom Penh will stop in Krakor, the closest town to Kampong Luong. From there you can take a tuk tuk or motorbike to the edge of the floating village and take a boat directly into it.
I have to admit, the whole experience was very much set up as a tourist attraction. From your ride to the edge of the village ($3), to your boat ride (depending on your options, it started at $13 per boat) and your accommodations (‘home-stay’ with an assigned family in the village for $6 or you can stay on land at a guesthouse) was all set up and none of the prices were negotiable.
I did meet a couple who rented their own boat and paddled themselves into the village, but unless you spoke Khlmer, that option is near impossible.
Having paid it all and spent a night at Kampong Luong, I would say it was an amazing experience. I probably wouldn’t do it again, but it was incredible to see a fully functioning town on water. They had all the usual establishments of a town set up, like schools, temples, stores and beauty salons. I particularly loved seeing the vegetable lady go from house to house in the evening selling groceries for dinner or the morning lady selling coffee and tea.
The floating villages in Cambodia are a dying culture, as it’s becoming harder and harder to make a living on the water. I learned Kampong Luong used to have over 4000 homes, but in 2016 there were only around 1000 left. Even the family that owned the home-stay was looking to sell their home to move on land.
Even though there wasn’t much to do at the village and the experience was very uncomfortable (talk about unsanitary water – I didn’t even dare wash my hands in that water), I’m still glad I got to see it before it fully disappears.