In addition to temples, visitors have discovered the floating village of Chong Kneas located ten kilometers south of Siem Reap, Cambodia, on the Tonle Sap Lake. The van ride took us past numerous rice paddies with flimsy stilt houses lining both sides of the narrow road. One could not help notice or watch the constant ebb and flow of daily life in the fields, in the houses, under the houses and along the road. So much going on in a relatively small area. The poverty slaps one in the face.
Arriving at the docks, visitors purchase tickets and board boats to ride out to the floating village. Our guide explains that the village contains about a hundred families, mostly Vietnamese. Unwelcome in Cambodia, these people have created a way of living. The village actually moves around according to the water levels of the lake and the season. It is a self contained floating village with residents engaged in fish farming (raising cat fish) as well as using traditional basket type traps. Men and women can be seen repairing or making fishing nets. Chickens, hogs, and produce are also raised on these floating buildings. Each house has its covered front or back porch where most of the cooking and daily life takes place. Laundry is hung everywhere. The village contains general stores, restaurants, and a school with a basketball court. The court is on the upper floor and is made with safety railings and a grille to keep the ball and the children from going overboard. Each family owns a small boat for navigating throughout the floating village to trade or buy from each other.
Children can be seen getting around themselves in anything that can float or be rowed. They are quite adept in showing the tourists the snakes they have, posing for a picture and then demanding a dollar. One of the floating buildings is used as an education center for visitors which have displays explaining the ecosystem, bird and fish life found on the Tonle Sap Lake. Aboard is a sample fish farm where the tourist can throw feed into the large opening on the first floor deck. There is also a crocodile farm below the deck which has at least ten large reptiles. They do not eat them, just show them to tourists. The eco center also has a nice gift shop, snack bar and small restaurant. On the upper floor one can get a better view of this incredible floating village, each house painted in bright colors, most of which are now faded or peeling. The TV antennas become noticeable and music can be heard from a café across the way. Heading back to the docks, we pass a church and a temple, also part of this floating village.