The Tonle Sap lake or how the locals like to call it, the GREAT Tonle Sap lake is not for the faint-hearted. It’s anything but cheerful. It’s about 15kms from Siem Reap and centered around Chong Khneas floating village. As soon as your boat departs for a ride, you will hear stories of the great floods and how it left many fishermen dead and their kids orphans. The children of the floating orphanage try their best to pacify the pall of gloom you’d be shrouded in even before you enter it. Hmmm, come to think of it, our boatman was a very emotional story-teller.
Anyway, you buy some rice, soap etc to donate to the children who seem very much into selfies. Their classes are constantly interrupted by visitors like us.
Then we head to the crocodile farms that seems eerily positioned next to a lady cooking croc and snake steaks. As I said before, not for the faint hearted.
However, the stories of floods and the divide between Vietnamese and Cambodian culture and the people affected by it are hard to digest and harder to forget. out boatman immaculately impersonated a puppet and said that their government is run by the Vietnamese. I couldn’t get much else out of him.
Close to the lake is a war remnant museum that depicts the horror of the Khmer Rouge and its effect on the country. A guide takes you around the tanks, armored vehicles, and weapons and then shoves you to a corner with the most horrifying images possible. The handicaps left after the war, the mutilation and the morbidity.
They did not allow photography in the gallery, and I’m glad for it. The one place I could do without photos of. I, however, did my research on the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot and you guys should read these too. Article 1, Article 2 & Article 3. Your perspective of this beautiful country won’t be the same again.
All in all, it’s still worth a visit especially if you are temple fatigued as we were after three days of non-stop temple hopping.
Head to an Apsara show if you are feeling low at the end of the day.
What I Read: Tonle Sap: The Heart of Cambodia’s Natural Heritage, a foreigner’s view on the culture of people living on the lake. Nice read.
- Carry USD. You don’t really have to change it. Works everywhere. You will, however, get the small change in Cambodian Riel. Check exchange rates.
- The taxis are fairly cheap and can be booked for day trips. Negotiate.
- VISA: Indians and most nationals get a visa on arrival for USD 20. or you can apply for an e-visa here.
- Embassy Alert: Royal Embassy of Cambodia in India, W-112, Greater Kailash Part-II, New Delhi, 110048, India. Tel: (91-11) 292 144 35, Fax: (91-11) 292 144 38, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org~Indian Embassy in Cambodia, No.50, Street No. 214, Samdech Pan Ave., Sangkat Boeung Raing, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Tel No.: (+855-23) 210912 / 210913, Fax No. (+855-23) 213640 / 210914, website
- Eat local food. Not just for the taste. It’s usually fresh from the sea or farms and low on the hardcore spices. Very palatable and smooth on the intestines.
- You will need a minimum of three full days at Siem Reap to do the temples any justice.
- Go to the local boutique hotels. They are reasonable, come with a decent attached spa and pack your big breakfast box for those sunrise trips.
- While at it,. also try to catch a cultural show (with buffet dinner) in one of the many places in Siem Reap. We went to the Apsara Terrace. It showcases traditional Khmer dance and performances.
- What’s more. the Cambodians are very child-friendly and so are the temples. They will love spotting various animals and stories on the bas-reliefs.