As you may know, the Tonle Sap lake, the largest body of water in SE Asia and the home of the floating villages of Siem Reap, is unique in that the water levels change based on the season. When it is the rainy season in Cambodia they will swell several meters high but, when the rain stops, water levels slowly recede.
Due to the change in water levels our tour of the floating village slightly changes logistically from that listed on our website. Below you will find some of the major differences for the Month of March, 2018:
Guests leave Siem Reap slightly later – between 2:30 and 2:45 – but still make the same stops on the way (sticky rice, donuts, and sometimes a market tour). The reason we leave slightly later is so we can try to catch the beginning of the sunset which sets later during this time of the year.
We will arrive in Kompong Khleang but, instead of getting on the boat at the pagoda, we typically drive directly to the village by van. This is because the water is very shallow so the boat travels slowly. It can get also stuck in the mud near the school. To avoid these potential issue, we travel by land and then will either return to the pagoda by land or meet the boat at a local dock nearby the school. The tour guide will make the determination when he arrives.
Just as we do during the Rainy Season, we will take a boat through Kompong Khleang and onwards to the Tonle Sap. The waterway is very narrow due to lower water levels and becomes a canal that cuts through the previously submerged (but now farmable) lakebed. Because it is narrow the boat travels much slower and it can take up to 40 minutes to arrive at the Tonle Sap by boat (compared to about 25 minutes in the rainy season). We usually arrive on the Tonle Sap around 5:45.
Just as we do during the Rainy Season, we visit Chong Prolay, a Khmer floating village, as well as an ethnic Vietnamese floating village in the Dry Season. Some of the residents remove their petrol tank bouys and dock their boats on the land, but the majority continue to float further out on the lake. We will visit both communities briefly and anchor the boat next to the village to enjoy the beginning of sunset.
In March we always stay for the beginning of sunset. The tour guide (with guest input) will then make a determination to stay later or return before it finishes. If it is not a cloudy day and guests have a flexible schedule we typically stay on the lake for the full sunset. If it is cloudy or guests need to be back at a certain time we will leave early. In the event we leave early, you will still be able to follow the sunset on the boat back.
We arrive at the pagoda between between 6:30-6:45 and arrive in Siem Reap between 7:45-8:00, up to 30 minutes later than we do in the Rainy Season. This is in order to see the later sunset.
To better see what Kompong Khleang looks like in the dry season, we have embedded a aerial video below. Please note how the water has receded from the homes and a narrow canal has formed. This is the canal we will take to get to the Tonle Sap. You can also see the roads that have formed between the rows of houses on the right. We will take the van down this road to visit the village where we work.
As you can see, the March 2018 tour is essentially the same as the Rainy Season Tour. The major differences are logistical in nature – we travel to the school by van instead of boat, the boat trip is longer, and we arrive back in Siem Reap later due to boat transit times and the late sunset. That being said the majority of the tour is the exact same. You also have the benefit of watching farmers work the lakebed which only occurs in the dry season.
If you have questions about how we will be conducting the tour on a particular date feel free to email us in advance and we’ll be able to provide more information. Thanks again for taking time to read this blog post and for your willingness to support our organization!