Tonle Sap: Southeast Asia’s Largest Freshwater Lake

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.

Tonle Sap: Southeast Asia’s Largest Freshwater Lake

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.

wat thmei

After visiting Wat Thmei, we then proceeded to Tonle Sap.

Here’s a brief and interesting information about Tonle Sap from Wikipedia.

tonle sap

“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.”

chong kneas

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.

chong kneas

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.


  1. I didn’t get a chance to see Tonle Sap when I was Cambodia. It looks like I missed seeing some good things. The crocodile farm alone would be a great experience too. I didn’t know there was one out there.

    • the crocodiles are caged in a wooden enclosure that looks really fragile…. i couldnt stand near them LOL… im sure they could easily break that if they want to…

  2. i paid twice that for the same tour! I should be reading your blogs before heading off anywhere!

    • maybe tita lili your tour took you to the farther village, coz that one is a little more expensive 🙂 i really enjoyed the tonle sap tour and would probably do that again once i go back to SR 🙂

  3. i miss this tour when i was in siem reap. the closest thing i did was to wait for the sunset at the river banks. medyo nostalgic!
    trivia: 2nd largest lake is on the phlippines, laguna lake.

  4. hi, may i know which travel agency u book with? would be going to siem reap in a few weeks time, and would like to book the tour 🙂


  1. […] Visit Tonle Sap: Cruise around the humongous Tonle Sap and observe life living on water. People built and live on floating houses around Tonle Sap. This is a great eye opener about the different living situations of people. […]

  2. […] surprised with some modern looking Wats or novelty shops scattered in Chiang Mai. I also went to Tonle Sap in Siem Reap (biggest lake in Southeast Asia – it gets even bigger during the rainy season) and surprised to […]

  3. […] Boat is one of the main boat tours operators in Tonle Sap. Some of the tours they offer include Kompong Phluk, Chong Kneas, Kompong Khleang, Preak Toal Bird […]

  4. […] Quay is a 3km strip that runs along the west bank of Tonle Sap River. It’s filled with shops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and guesthouses on the left side and […]

  5. […] This probably is the next popular thing in Siem Reap next to Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap. You can find a lot of restaurants, bars and shops in pubstreet. Explore the small alleys and […]

Speak Your Mind


Follow my Adventures in Facebook