I skipped Angkor Wat on this visit in Siem Reap and instead opted to take a boat tour to Tonle Sap. I’ve been to Angkor Wat before on my last backpacking trip and figured that I’d want to see something else in Siem Reap. The Tonle Sap boat Tour seemed to be the next best thing to see so I booked a half day tour with a travel agency as soon as I got an offer that’s within my budget.
For $16/person (cheapest I’ve found), the tour went to Artisan Angkor, Wat Thmei (a monument for Killing Fields), Crocodile Farm and a short boat tour around Tonle Sap lake. The fee includes a tour guide, entrance fees, boat tour and tuktuk ride.
First stop was Artisan Angkor where they’re training Cambodian kids some crafts like painting, sculpting etc. According to the tour guide, this was initially funded by an international organization but it’s being managed locally.
The products are then sold to their own stores and distributed to other channels as well. They also export some of the works of the kids. The proceeds help fund the training of the craftsmen.
The next stop was Wat Thmei, this is like a monument to the genocide era of Cambodia. It’s like Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh. Our tour guide explained to us his own perspective about the incident in a sad tone. I didn’t bother to ask anymore. He also told us about the difference of Cambodian and Vietnamese history. He said that in their history, Saigon is part of Cambodia and should be given back to the country by Vietnam. According to him, it’s part of the agreement between their previous King and Ho Chi Minh. He also mentioned that according to the Vietnamese history, it’s not theirs. I asked him if he thinks that their country would ever get back Saigon? He said, probably not.
After visiting Wat Thmei, we then proceeded to Tonle Sap.
Here’s a brief and interesting information about Tonle Sap from Wikipedia.
“The Tonlé Sap is a combined lake and river system of major importance to Cambodia. The Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997.
The Tonlé Sap is unusual for two reasons: its flow changes direction twice a year, and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. From November to May, Cambodia’s dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, when the year’s heavy rains begin in June, the Tonlé Sap backs up to form an enormous lake.”
We rented a boat that toured us around the huge lake. Along the way we also saw the floating village (Chong Kneas) and I was amazed on what their life was like.
It’s pretty much the same as ours except that their living on floating houses. They have stores, schools, etc. The best part is that they could move their house from one place to another, might be very advantageous especially if you don’t like your neighbour. LOL.
We also visited a tourist shop that has crocodiles in cages. I learned that they farm crocodiles in Cambodia for their meat and leather.
The whole boat tour experience is definitely a big eye opener for me on how people live in different conditions. It made me think about a lot of issues like their personal safety, environmental issues, sustainability etc. It also motivated me to see more variety of living conditions.
If you get to visit Siem Reap try to visit Tonle Sap and see it for yourself.