Tonle Sap Lake Life
During the Cambodian dry season, November to May, Tonle Sap is relatively small approximately, 2,700 square km, as it filters water back into the river and ultimately to the Mekong. Astonishingly though, during the wet season from June to October, the waters swell back up due to the monsoon weather from the Mekong basin, and grows up to 16,000 square km, almost six times its original size. With fluctuations this big, it's no wonder the most common dwellings are small house boats which can be easily moved by motor boat to suitable locations based on the season. During the dry season, most the Tonle Sap floating village moves out to the greater areas of water along the river, where as during the wet, houses are typically towed to shallow, calmer waters, banks, and mountain bases.
The culture of Tonle Sap Lake continues to sustain century old traditions, offering a rare unrefined view into one of the more undiscovered sides of Cambodia. The most accessible village from Siem Reap is Chong Khneas, having visited such a beautiful community, it will leave you wanting more. Gliding through the rather murky waters you can view what life is like in what most would consider to be a complete 180 from their current way of life. Houses range in size from small house boats approximately150 square feet, to larger ones roughly 400 square feet. Women glide from boat to boat, selling dried foods and other meats. Men fish off the shores. Children play and learn just the same as anywhere else, well almost. The one downside to the water is the restraints it puts on playtime, so for these schools the playground is enclosed. Makes sense, who wants to swim across the way every time a soccer ball goes astray.
Life along Tonle Sap Lake moves at a different pace and in different manners, but is no less hard working or full of life. Tonle Sap floating villages provide a humbling opportunity to view a way of life many would not otherwise know. This opportunity is remarkable and highly recommended, as it is not yet overwhelmed by visitors like other more famous attractions in Cambodia.
When to Go to Tonle Sap
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