Tonle Sap Lake, commonly translated to “Great Lake”, is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Seasonally inundated, the Tonle Sap is connected to the Mekong River at the capital Phnom Penh by the 120km (75mi) long Tonle Sap River. The flow of the lake changes direction twice a year, the lake expands by up to five times its usual size by water flowing in from the Mekong during the monsoon season. The water flows out from the Lake to the Mekong between November and May, the country’s dry season.
Located 15km (10mi) from Siem Reap, the Tonle Sap stretches across the northwest section of Cambodia. The lake is home to more than three million Cambodians, 90% of them live on catching fish and making agricultures, more than half of the fish consumed in Cambodia coming from the Tonle Sap. Rising tides affect daily life of the people living in the lake, so stilted-houses are typical houses in the area.
The Tonle Sap offers great opportunity to explore fishing villages, towering stilted-houses with huge fish traps, and the real treat in here is seeing how the fisherman and their families live. Both Chong Khneas and Kompong Khleang are beautiful floating villages in the lake, attracting hundreds of visitors every day. However, the Chong Khneas Village is becoming more touristy than the other.
Kompong Khleang is a little further out, reached through a narrow channel guarded by a bamboo gate. The village is home of 4,000 people, mainly Vietnamese immigrants living on the river opposite a bustling town, which is famous for its chhang (clay pots). You will see in this village kids getting ready to go to their floating school and people washing dishes in the river, floating gardens covered the open patios of the houses and TVs flickered in the background, each running off a rechargeable car battery.