Kompong Luong is like your average Cambodian village. It has grocery stores, hoards of mobile phone shops, spartan restaurants selling the usual rice, noodles and fish, shack-like housing, even a Christian church and the obligatory Cambodian People’s Party office. But instead of being rooted to the earth, it rides on the brown waves of the Tonle Sap.
It is actually a collection of villages, with two of the main villages being Cambodian and Vietnamese. Our guide told us that the Cambodians had been there a long, long time but that the Vietnamese had come along later. Apparently, after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, many Vietnamese fishermen seized the opportunity when their army pushed into Cambodia to do the same. So up they went to the then abundant fishing waters of the Tonle Sap and there they stayed. After doing a bit of reading myself though, that seems a tad inaccurate, as many Vietnamese lived there already it seems and were merely returning when the coast was clear as Pol Pot’s crew would have massacred them if they stayed (there were even modern massacres in the 1990s of Vietnamese by Khmer Rouge hardliners still operating in Cambodia!).
We had been eager to see one of Cambodia’s famous floating villages, but heard not-so-great things about the ones near Siem Reap, which seem to be tourist traps where scams are rife. Some of you may disagree if you have been to one of those villages, and if so, we’d really welcome your thoughts. Anyway, we saw good reviews of Kompong Luong online and so made our way to Krakor by getting the Phnom Penh bus for US$6 (which our hostel Here be Dragons organised) from Battambang and jumping off half way at the town. We’ll talk about more about Krakor and my self-realisation of a shittier side to my character in the next post, so stayed tuned!
Now, on with the show, and as this is “Fotofit”, the visuals should be doing more of the talking. So here goes:
We dropped our bags at the guesthouse and haggled with a tuk tuk guy to take us the approximate 5km to the floating village and back again for US$5. Depending on the time of year, whether it’s wet or not, the village is between 2km-7km away from Krakor. At the village there were a few options for boat tours. I wanted to see the crocodile farm at the Vietnamese village, but as it was dry season that wasn’t an option, so we settled for the cheaper US$9 one hour tour of the closer Cambodian village. That was the cost for both of us. Tip: the more people you go with, the cheaper it’ll be!
It is a fascinating and scary world, the floating village. The same bit of untreated water is the locals’ source for washing and disposing of (everything!) into. The intriguing beauty of a simple life floating on the waves is set starkly against the drawbacks of such an existence, with littered embankments and obviously polluted water. It all gives plenty of ammunition for the mind to contemplate different ways of life…atlhough, only in hindsight for me, as I just kept thinking of Kevin Costner’s floppy epic, Waterworld… what a tool.
Unfortunately getting off the boat to explore the village didn’t seem to be an option for our tour, although maybe we should have plucked up the courage to ask! But the experience was memorable in any event. In a traveller’s quest to find and explore authentic ways of foreign life, this really was for us a little glimpse at something completely different without the usual hordes of tourists (we only saw one other set of tourists while we were there). You can also homestay at the village and we understand that there is usually someone waiting at the tour office to offer accommodation, but he must have been taking a leak when we were there…
So, verdict, definitely a place worth seeing and we’d probably do a homestay at wet season next time! Here’s a few more photos and a wee video to whet your appetite a bit more:
Cheers for reading