Photo: A watery way of life.

Floating village boat tour

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A boat tour up or down the Tonle Sap to visit one of the area’s floating villages is a popular activity with local visitors and the few foreign tourists who make it up this way.

The predominately ethnic Vietnamese villages of Kandal, to the south, and Chong Kos, to the north, used to be suburbs of Kompong Chhnang city and were moored immediately opposite and on both sides of Phsar Krom. That made village visits easy, but authorities saw fit to relocate the villages a few kilometres up- and downstream of town. That renders it a bit far for a rowing boat taxi now, so you’ll have to hire a motorboat for the hour or so round trip.

A typical floating shop. Photo taken in or around Floating village boat tour, Kompong Chhnang, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

A typical floating shop. Photo: Mark Ord

The tour boat jetty and information desk are just to the left of the marine police on the riverside. Prices vary widely according to number of passengers, length of trip and how much or little work they’ve got that day but we were offered a one-hour tour for two for $15. Boat sizes range from basic small craft to large two-deck boats but all have roofs and life-jackets.

The tour itself can be a somewhat voyeuristic experience, since you’re chugging up and down the narrow channels between houses peering at locals washing their hair, cleaning the dishes or brushing their teeth, but a boatman should make stops at, for example, a floating grocery store to grab a drink or a small market where the day’s catch is prepared before being sent down to the town’s fish market.

Life on the water. Photo taken in or around Floating village boat tour, Kompong Chhnang, Cambodia by Mark Ord.

Life on the water. Photo: Mark Ord

As per Mekong Delta villages, many families raise fish under the houses themselves so there are usually plenty of general life activities to take in aside from those of a more personal nature. On our last trip, the boatman actually stopped at his family home to show us around and introduce us to his wife and kids. As with the tuk tuk tours it can be counterproductive to bargain them down too much, as you’ll just end up with grumpy driver who wants to get the minimum over and done with as soon as possible.

If you’re arriving from Battambang and have seen the villages along the Sangkar River then this may be a bit redundant, but if you’ve only seen the floating tourist village of Chong Kneas at Siem Reap, or haven’t done any trips of this ilk, then it is an experience not to be missed.

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How to get there
The tour boat jetty is on the quay next to the marine police and there’s an information/ticket desk on the footpath behind the tuk tuk park. Allow 60 to 90 minutes for your tour and though prices vary we’ve always found the boatmen reasonable so don’t bother bargaining too much. The destination village is dependent on water levels and your boatman will decide on the best option.

Location map for Floating village boat tour

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Kompong Chhnang.
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