Steadily, our canoe started to dock at a floating platform at Kompong Phluk’s Floating Forest. We just finished a magical ride along the gnarled trees, flooded by the nearby Tonlé Sap Lake. And it was such a wonderful encounter that we absolutely didn’t mind paying a hefty amount just to experience it.
|BOAT RIDE THROUGH THE FLOODED FOREST|
My buddy jumped off the canoe on to the ledge, and as I was about to follow her, a motorboat suddenly roared across the other side of the river. Our canoe started to drift away from the platform exactly as my right foot planted itself on its wooden boards.
Everything started to play in slow motion as the distance between our boat and the platform started to widen. I can’t freakin’ believe this is happening.
|EN ROUTE TO THE FLOATING VILLAGE OF KOMPONG PHLUK|
The air was as arid as can be as we sped our way through the dusty road towards Tonlé Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake not only in Cambodia, but the whole of South East Asia. We stopped by the eco-tourism office to pay the obligatory entrance fee (20.00 USD) before proceeding to the floating village of Kompong Phluk.
|OUR BOAT RIDE TO THE FLOATING VILLAGE|
Caked in red dust, we finally arrived at a river bank deep enough for boats taking tourists to the floating village to dock. We bade Nga, our tuk-tuk driver, fare thee well and boarded the motorized wooden boat that would tour us around Kompong Phluk .
|ONE OF THE FIRST STILTED STRUCTURES WE SAW EN ROUTE TO THE VILLAGE|
Within minutes, we passed by houses, schools and temples elevated several feet off the ground. The reason? Kompong Phluk gets flooded during the rainy months of August up to January. The rest of the year, the water recedes, baring the structures’ stilts.
|KIDS PLAYING ALONG THE TAHAS RIVER|
The structures got denser and denser as we roared along the narrow river. Soon, both sides of the banks started to fill with clusters of stilt houses, medium-sized boats moored along the shore.
|A KID RIDING A BASIN!|
The silty brown water started to get populated by fisher folks going about their daily routine and kids playing around the river. Kompong Phluk or Kompuongplok to the locals, is a community of about 3,000 villagers. It was quite a sight, something I haven’t seen anywhere else I’ve been.
|THE FLOATING VILLAGE OF KOMPONG PHLUK|
The Philippines has its share of stilt houses, especially in the southern part of the country, but never at this scale. The houses stand at about three to four storeys high, and the only way to access it are through the rickety ladders that extend from the ground.
|MIRED ONCE MORE AT THE FLOATING VILLAGE OF KOMPONG PHLUK|
The river was probably at its lowest during our visit, as we kept getting dragged and mired; the water was just too shallow on some parts. It was a good thing our boatman was adept enough in getting us unstuck. He’d drive the boat, we’d get stuck, he’d go out the stern, pull us out of quagmire then drive again.
Repeat twenty times.
|BRIDGE CROSSING THE TAHAS RIVER|
Some parts of the river are quite deep though, as evidenced by the few wooden bridges we passed along. I so wanted for our boat to stop so I can climb one myself, but time wasn’t on our side, we’d have to visit the Roluos group of temples right after this.
|A BOAT PASSING ALONG THE FLOODED FOREST|
Passing the village, our boat arrived at Kompong Phluk ’s Flooded Forest. I’ve been to a few of these in our country, but this one in Siem Reap is quite different. Even during the dry season, the mangroves are submerged in waters.
|CANOES WAITING FOR TOURIST AT THE FLOODED FOREST|
Dropping us off at a restaurant platform, our boatman asked if we wanted to have a quick tour of the flooded forest. The fee was pegged at 5.00 USD; quite expensive for a fifteen minute ride, really. But what the heck, we’re already here anyways so why not.
|SOOTHING RIDE AT THE FLOATING FOREST|
We boarded a narrow wooden canoe and were soon rowing our way inside the forest. It was truly beautiful. It was very serene with the sun filtering through from the lush canopy above. You can hear nothing but the calls of birds and the swish of our paddles hitting the placid water.
Those five dollars was certainly worth it, if not for my falling off our canoe just as I was to get off.
|TONLE SAP LAKE IN SIEM REAP|
Banged up, totally soaked and superbly embarrassed, I went back to our boat and pretended I didn’t just fall from a canoe. Our boat roared onto the Tonlé Sap Lake, and for a moment, I forgot my total humiliation. From afar, the lake looked real stunning.
|MURKY WATERS OF TONLE SAP LAKE|
That is until we got closer and saw that it has that same brown, muddy color and consistency as the river we just exited.
UNESCO has identified Tonlé Sap as an ecological hotspot. It doesn’t mean it’s a world heritage site, but it has a diverse biological ecosystem. Besides that, it has a peculiarity uncommon for most lakes; it reverses its flow twice a year. During the dry season, it drains towards the Mekong River, backing up during the wet months.
|WHEN YOU SAY JUMP, I SAY, HOW HIGH?|
But zipping around Tonlé Sap Lake isn’t really enough for my buddy. She wants to jump off board and swim! Well, our boatman said that most European tourists do it, so can she. Right?
We knew something was wrong right after she jumped and resurfaced on the choppy waters of the lake. The current was simply too strong. Throwing a rope, we not-so-quickly hauled her back up the boat.
|CHEERS TO A VERY WET DAY! CHUL MOI! (DON’T WORRY HE DIDN’T DRINK!)|
Just then a boat vendor selling snacks paddled up next to ours. Do you have beer? I asked. She opened an icebox and showed them to be full of Angkor Beer. We bought a few, opened the cans and cheered to a very wet first day in Cambodia. Chul moi!!!
Kompong Phluk Floating Village
Address: Stoeng Tahas, Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Entrance Fee: 25.00 USD
Lolei GPS Coordinates Map: 13°12'35.3"N 103°58'25.0"E
Address: Stoeng Tahas, Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Entrance Fee: 5.00 USD
Preah Ko GPS Coordinates Map: 13°12'12.3"N 103°58'26.5"E