Floating villages at Kampong Chhnang

We saw a lot during our day around Kampong Chhnang with Channy and Sary but for the first part of the tour they handed us over to a boatman who paddled us between some absolutely stunning villages on Tonle Sap River. The guy was very sweet but didn’t speak much English, so there’s not a lot information I can share with you about the places we saw. From Lonely Planet, there are a couple of villages they list (Phoum Kandal and Chong Kos), but I’m not sure which exactly we visited with him.

What I can say was that I just loved floating down the “lanes” of water, passing slowly by people’s homes with time enough to wave to the kids or sneak a peek at the every day goings on – cooking, gossiping, washing clothes, watching television and lots of napping in hammocks. The houses were amazing, ranging from totally ramshackle huts made primarily from dried vegetation, to creations pieced together from multiple boats, to neat and cozy painted wood structures with glass windows, satellite TV and potted plants on the veranda – all of them floating on the surface of the river. It was amazing to see whole rows of houses start to bob gently up and down when ever a motorized boat sped by.

The couple hours we spent on the water were totally fascinating and atmospheric. If you are thinking of trying it, I’d just advise covering up (a wide-brimmed hat is a good idea!) and bringing enough water along!

I took tons and tons of photos but it was tough to get good shots from a moving vessel! Of course that’s not stopping me from posting a bunch of them. 😉 None of them manage to come close to capturing how charming the villages on the water were though!

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View of one of the villages from halfway across the river

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Vendors paddling their wares between houses. I’m not sure what they were selling (something cold by the looks of those coolers) but the man (standing) was ringing a bell as he paddled. If you look close you can see it in his left hand. Check the power lines running above/between the houses as well. 🙂

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The houses on the water varied greatly. Here is a good-sized house made of palm fronds with laundry drying on one wall.

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Something a bit sturdier looking…

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Nap time on a houseboat

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A lawn that needs no watering?

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Working on a boat

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Fishing gear

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Fisherman casting his net

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Exterior of one floating house. I love the cleaning gear and the dishes on the “back stoop”

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A floating shop, soda on display in the window

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Bridge before the village on stilts

Here is a panoramic shot of the village on awesomely tall stilts on the edge of the water. Click for an enlarged view.

Travel notes: Kampong Chhnang

Our next stop in Cambodia was Kompong Chhnang (sometimes spelled Kampong Chhnang). A port city on the Tonle Sap River and capital of the province with the same name, it was an easy bus ride and figurative world away from Phnom Penh. It made a nice change from Cambodia’s capital. With a population of about 42,000 (says Lonely Planet) and not on the typical tourist’s to-do list, it felt much more down to Earth. Our visit was short but sweet.

Accommodation

We stayed at Sovannphum Hotel. Excellent value at USD 8 per night for a room with fan (not a/c – this was mostly fine although there were some too-hot-and-sweaty moments during the mid-day). The room was simple but clean and decently kitted out and, being at the front of the hotel, had massive windows that let in loads of light.

We mostly ate at the attached hotel restaurant which had a massive menu (literally, the thing had wooden covers and looked like it weighed about five pounds!), decent food, a totally delicious and addictive coconut smoothie, a family of resident bats and a waiter that drove Roman nuts (very friendly but he answered every request with “Why not?” 🙂 ).

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Amazing windows!

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Decent bathroom

Things to do

The town itself is ok but the real attractions are the outside the city. Amazing floating villages, interesting local pottery production, beautiful scenery, a lovely Wat with a peaceful hill-top temple. Details to follow in a later post but suffice to say the place is definitely worth a visit!

We got lucky and ended up with two moto drivers who were terrific guides. Easy going and interesting to talk with, Channy and Sary (no idea if that’s the correct spelling of their names!) enabled us to experience a wonderful, full day of exploration around Kampong Chhnang. They’re also really conscientious drivers – making sure we had enough breaks for photos, water, etc. Feel free to look Channy up if you’re ever there – his mobile number is 077357361. 🙂

I really enjoyed chatting with him (Roman was on the back of Sary’s bike) as we drove from site to site. Was fun answering his questions about our lives back in Switzerland and revealing hearing his experiences with and opinions on Cambodia’s politics, the presence of the NGOs, his profession as a driver, his distant dream to one day ride in an airplane…

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Channy (in the window) watches a Japanese potter (at a Japanese-run NGO) at work