After an interesting boat ride passing some poor fishing villages on the riverside, we reached the floating village of Chong Kneas. The village consisted of tens of house boat that are tied together to each other to prevent them from drifting. Aside from the fact that they were floating homes, they actually looked like people’s homes; some you could see from outside having amenities you would expect in a normal home like separate rooms, kitchen, seating area, and even TVs and stereo / home entertainment system.
Our tour guide Vanna mentioned several interesting facts about the floating village. He said that the village location actually moves several times during the year, depending on the depth of the water around. During our visit, the water was actually pretty shallow; we saw someone standing on the bottom of the river with the water up to his chest. It must be quite interesting to observe the village moves to a new place; it must be a group effort to do so and requires some planning.
Vanna also mentioned that many of the village residents were illegal immigrants coming from neighboring Vietnam through the Mekong River. They came to the area because of its a great area for fisheries. They didn’t speak Khmer, so there was a floating school opened up to educate the young children of the village, and the language of teaching was Vietnamese rather than Khmer. It’s interesting that the way Vanna talked about these illegal Vietnamese immigrants was a bit condescending and he seemed bothered by their presence there; it reminded me to some rethoric that I heard in the United States when some people talked about illegal immigrants in the United States.
Another interesting observation was that during the day when we visited, there were mostly women and children seen in the homes in the village. It seemed that the men were out on their boat fishing at the lake.
When we reached closer to the mouth of the river that opened up to the Tonle Sap Lake, a small boat with several children approached our boat. Vanna told us to just ignore them because they were there to beg for money. When we looked at these children closely, we saw one of them had a big snake wrapping around his neck — somewhat of a freak, shocking show I guess for the tourists…
We also stopped by a ‘visitor center’ boat where there was a little educational display showing how the fishing farms were done there, and the kinds of fish that were popular at the Tonle Sap Lake. There was also a small crocodile farm where they caught the crocodiles at the nearby swamp and raised them to harvest the meat and skin (to use as materials for bags, clothing, etc.). They also had a little souvenir shop and a restaurant there, though we didn’t really get anything before heading back to the land.
Interesting sights to see and experience. I do wonder how it would be like from the villagers’ point of view, when they had tourists coming to their village every day looking at what they feel like normal life being perceived as novelties or something unique…
The photo below was taken from our boat as we went through the floating village. You can see a small boat with the village resident and the house boats on the side.