The Floating Village

Twenty percent of the people in Siem Reap live in the rural area.  Far from the conveniences of grocery stores, hotels, cars, and schools, villages ban together, working and sharing resources to keep their community together. We visited one such village today.

The Floating Village
The Floating Village

Most of those that live outside the city are farmers, growing rice, vegetables and fruit.  We had help from the local farmers to get us to the location of the Floating Village…quite the unusual mode of transportation!  These water buffalo carts help the farmers in the rice fields and are family pets, raising them from the day they are born.

Riding in a water buffalo cart.
Riding in a water buffalo cart.

There was a small barbershop at the end of the road, where many of the farmers would take a break from their workday to freshen up.

Shave and a haircut
Shave and a haircut

Once we got to the waterway, we transferred to long boats to take us to the Floating Village.  It’s currently the dry season, and the water level is only 3 feet deep.

Longboats take us up the river.
Longboats take us up the river to the Tonle Sap Lake.

Wooden houses, schools, churches, stores, restaurants, all float on bamboo poles tied together while everything happens on the water.  You will see everything floating – chickens and ducks, fruits and vegetables, small children paddling to the floating school, shopping for household goods, getting gas for your boat..

Family life on the river
Family life on the river
The local five and dime
The local five and dime

Wooden platform homes all supported on bamboo poles tied together
Wooden platform homes all supported on bamboo poles tied together
The local gas station...stored in Johnny Walker bottles
The local gas station…stored in Johnny Walker bottles
Selling eggs door to door
Selling eggs door to door

Behind the houses, there is land, which the families use to grow rice and vegetables when the water is low and fishing is more difficult. Lake is currently at its lowest point, which is why the water looks like coffee with cream.

Farming rice and vegetables when the water level is low
Farming rice and vegetables when the water level is low

Most of these people make their living as fishermen.  Many of the children grow up and go away to school, learning of another life, but they often come back.  As fishermen, they make a fairly good living, thus continuing this lifestyle, floating on the lake.

In another month, the rains will come, and the lake level will rise 25 feet.  Before that happens, they will move the entire village downstream, so they can be closer to land.  It will take them a good month to tow all the houses by boat.

They are simple and happy people, but I’ll tell you one thing…after seeing a place like this, we should never complain about your lives.

When the rains come, the water level will rise, and fishing will be plentiful
When the rains come, the water level will rise, and fishing will be plentiful once again.
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