There’s more to see in Siem Reap than temples and ruins, but what? The floating villages of Cambodia, specifically Kampong Phluk, are definitely a less-traveled destination.
Like Venice, Italy, this village isn’t actually floating but is built on 16’ tall wooden stilts driven into the bed of the seasonal lake, Tonle Sap (which literally translates to “large freshwater river”). The lake is filled by the Tonle Sap river that connects to the Mekong River — all of which form a massive central hydrological system in the Cambodian floodplain.
But the hand-hewn houses of Kampong Phluk aren’t always “floating” — it depends on what season you visit. During the rainy season (June to November), the lake rises to meet the bottom of the houses, but in the dry season (especially December or January), the supporting structures are completely exposed, making the houses only accessible by ladders. Many of the locals move out of their permanent housing and build temporary houses on the lake during this time.
Kampong Phluk translates to “Harbor of the Tusks” and their primary economy is fishing — specifically shrimp harvesting — but some of the outliers also farm. The boat tour is really a look into daily village life — you’ll see families doing laundry, kids going to school, cooking or fishing, and scaling swinging ladders like pros. It’s a colorful and unique experience.
There are two other floating villages in this region of Cambodia, but Kampong Phluk is the largest and, oddly, the least touristy. If you can time it, it’s nice to catch the sunset on the lake.
How to get there
Kampong Phluk is 16 km upriver from Siem Reap. There are plenty of tours that will include all transportation, tickets, and, usually, a meal. But, if you want the cheaper option, arrange it yourself by asking your tuk-tuk driver to book you a boat up to the village.
What to consider
- Complete tours cost between $35 and $50 USD, but if you arrange it yourself the ticket for the boat to the village is $18 USD per person.
- The boat ride to the village takes 45 minutes and the trip through the village is another 45 minutes.
- There are two other floating villages besides Kampong Phluk: Chong Khneas and Kompong Khleang. Chong Khneas is overrun with tourists. Kompong Khleang isn’t as bad but is 35 km away from Siem Reap.
- With over 3000 inhabitants, Kampong Phluk has the largest population of all the floating villages.