Say you’re traveling to Siem Reap and everyone knows you’re after that Tomb Raider experience at Angkor Wat! It is indeed one of the most magical places you’ll visit in your lifetime, but you’re bound to get bored of temples for a good while. Thankfully, Siem Reap has way more things to do than you could first have imagined, including some off-the-beaten-path gems.
One of the most inexpensive yet super interesting day trips from Siem Reap is the Kampong Phluk Floating Village!
Kampong Phluk Floating Village
Located within the floodplain of the mighty Tonle Sap Lake, Kampong Phluk is a collection of three fishing villages, home to around 3,500 residents that live in the most peculiar way.
Although people refer to it as a floating village, the buildings are actually built on 6 to 10 meters high stilts and give the appearance of a floating village when the water level of the lake rises. You might spot some floating animal enclosures and some fishing net rollers, though, that rise and fall with the water level.
Fun fact: the height of the local houses represents their financial status, with richer families building higher stilted houses that survive higher floods.
Before the civil war, Kampong Phluk was just a small community of fishermen who lived near the lake. Once the war started, their houses were burned and they were forced to move to central work sites. It was only when the war ended, that families began returning to the area and the village thrived to what we can witness today.
Here you will also find the flooded forest, the largest mangrove forest in the region, which is underwater for part of the year. You can do a special tour of this mangrove when visiting the village!
Nowadays, there are more communities like Kampong Phluk situated near the Tonle Sap, although the other villages are known to be occupied by Vietnamese people and therefore not as traditionally Cambodian as Kampong Phluk.
The villagers are content with their way of life and happy to see foreigners as tourism has become an essential part of the local economy. Overall, this unique cultural experience feels like traveling back in time to a place where technology is nothing but a luxury, and life is as simple as it gets!
The Tonle Sap Lake
The Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in all of Southeast Asia and is considered a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This combined lake and river system was also what largely maintained Angkor Wat during its glory times.
The most incredible thing about Tonle Sap though, is that its water flow changes direction twice a year. The Mekong River, which is the Lake’s main source of water, swells so much during the rainy season that the Tonle Sap River is actually forced to flow backward, away from the sea. Being the only river in the world that goes both ways.
This means that the lake grows and shrinks substantially throughout the course of the year, and communities such as Kampong Phluk are built well within the affected area, becoming a riverside village for much of the year, and a “floating” village for the rest of the time.
How to get to Kampong Phluk
The village is located about 16 km southeast and 40-60 minutes from Siem Reap. There are two ways to get there:
1. DYI: you can hire a private driver, get a tuk-tuk for around $20 or rent a car to drive the dirt road to the village. You must stop at the government ticket office to get your tickets – a fixed fee of $20 per person for a motorized boat to take you through the stilt houses, plus a $2 community entrance fee.
Book this tour: Kampong Phluk Floating Village Tour with Sunset >
When to Visit Kampong Phluk
To experience the floating village when it’s really, well… floating, it’s best to plan your visit during the rainy season. From May to October, during Cambodia’s monsoon season, the Tonle Sap River rises over 10 meters and reaches the stilted houses that hover over 6 to 10 meters from the ground.
It is also during this time that you’ll experience the locals going about their daily life – traveling by boat to school, feeding the animals, and untangling fishing nets.
The dry season has its advantages as well. When visiting from November to April, the water levels are low and you can walk around the village and interact with local residents.
Note: April is the month when the water level is at its lowest. We visited Kampong Phluk in early February and the water level was already really low, so would definitely recommend visiting between Mid-May to Mid-January for the best experience.
Kampong Phluk Highlights
Roluos Town – Local Market Stop
On the way to the boat dock, make sure to do a quick stop at the markets of the small town of Roluos, which is included in the half-day tour of Kampong Phluk.
This market is where locals shop fresh produce for their meals, three times a day, due to the lack of refrigeration in most homes in the area. It is a great opportunity to have a glimpse into the locals’ daily lives.
Pro tip: get yourself a delicious traditional banana fritter for one dollar!
At Kampong Phluk, there is a stunning Hindu and Buddhist stilted Pagoda covered in colorful murals that illustrate how the two religions coexist in Cambodia. It’s possible to request a stop in the village to explore the temple on foot.
After exploring Kampong Phluk, the boat usually heads to a floating restaurant located right next to the mangrove forest. Here, guided small boat tours of the stunning flooded forest are available for only $5 per person (not included on the ticket). We highly recommend you not skip this one, as the views are amazing!
Sunset on the Tonle Sap Lake
To end the afternoon tours, the boats head to the middle of Tonle Sap Lake, where you can watch the sun go down over the lake that flows both ways.