all photos by Jianne.
Kampong Khleang is the largest, farthest-situated, and least visited of the three floating villages in Siem Reap, Cambodia, making it the most remote. Compared to its counterparts, the village is home to about 6,000 to 10,000 people who live in stilted houses. I joined the tour through Bridge of Life Foundation, where proceeds go to a floating village school nearby, which I also got to visit. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the village and roads get rougher as the path progresses.
During the wet season, starting in late May and continuing until October, the water has the potential to rise very high. Most income is made through fishing, particularly during the wet season, when water levels are highest. Some fishermen stay on their boats for this entire 6-month period. The houses are built high for this reason and when the water levels are relatively low, you can see clearly just how tall they are.
Life is both simple and tough. Leisure activities like volleyball, karaoke, and tv serve as the main sources of entertainment for Kampong Khleang natives. Our tour guide Saro said that getting to high school is difficult –– he had to bike 22 kilometers (nearly 14 miles) every day to get to school in the city. That was 44 kilometers, or about 28 miles, total, each day.
The villagers get by by playing sports, singing, dancing, and fishing.
Visiting this school, where there are about 60 children, ages 5-8, has been a life-changing experience. We bought stationery for the kids, but they weren't there when we arrived. Education is scarce and getting into high school is difficult.
It made me realize we shouldn't take education for granted when some children must to go through these lengths just to get to a school.
The other village, Chong Kneas, is a Vietnamese village. It is home to about 600 people and can be reached by boat from Kampong Khleang. Chong Kneas is located near Tonle Sap, the largest body of water in Siem Reap and the livelihood for many Cambodians, which connects it to Vietnam. Compared to Kampong Khleang, the houses in this village are literally floating on water.
Those that live in floating homes tend to be poorer than those who live in stilted homes –– this is a major class divide.
Some never take to land unless they really need something important, like medical attention. Imagine life with nothing but water –– many villagers probably never setting foot on land.
jianne is a hong kong-born filipino currently studying international journalism and minoring in film. she is an anime, manga, east asian literature and cinema enthusiast. she’s also an advocate for ethnic minority rights in hong kong, being one herself, and has been serving as an ambassador for young people’s involvement in internet governance discussions. aspiring to be a photojournalist, she wants to capture new and undiscovered stories through her lens. also, always craving food.