Tonlé Sap, the Cambodia Great Lake, is the biggest freshwater lake in Asia. It is bonded to Mekong River and other small rivers. The joint of rivers causes a great freshwater lake. Tonlé Sap Lake is located at the center of Cambodia. The area of the lake is about 7,500 square kilometers. When it comes to flood, water will flood over surrounding area, enlarging the Tonlé Sap Lake up to six times of its width. The mentioned part of Mekong River is 500 kilometers long, pass through 5 provinces of Cambodia: Siem Reap, Battambang, Kampong Thom, Pursat and Kampong Chhnang.
Tonlé Sap literally means river in Cambodian language. The lake has opaque in color as same as Mekong River. It is such an abundant lake, full of up to 300 kinds of freshwater fish. It is claimed to be the world largest freshwater food resource, therefore many local villagers are engaged in fishing career. They catch and sell both fresh fish and fish products. This fishing career provides the second main income of the country after tourism.
Tonlé Sap Lake is the famous tourist attraction in Siem Reap. The lake is 14 kilometers far from downtown. Fishing villages appear at intervals along the path to the lake, those are called Tonlé Sap Fishermen Village. Some of them are single houses, while some of them are in densely communities. Fishermen villagers simply live in houses made out of wood or bamboo. They look like wooden cabinets on the rafts. Living in these houses provides ease of moving when it comes to annual flood. Most of the fishermen there are Vietnamese family who migrated during Cold War or Communist War, when Vietnam sent troops into Cambodia. In contradiction, Kompong Phluk, the ancient fishermen village, is a community of Cambodian villagers. They live on land by the lake, different from Tonlé Sap Fishermen. They live in wooden house which is about 10 meters high from the ground. In flood season, water from Tonlé Sap Lake will flow and almost reach their house. On the other hand, in summer, water from Tonlé Sap Lake will decrease until completely dry out. Meanwhile, Kompong Phluk village will looks like other common village in Cambodia.
Accordingly, a trip to Tonlé Sap Lake can be taken in two ways: by water and by land. Sailing along Tonlé Sap Lake will provide you scenery of Vietnamese descent fishing villager lifestyle, giving similar peaceful environment to Thailand countryside in decades ago. Tourists also should check out and try food from fresh freshwater fish.
Traveling by land will provide you the atmosphere of the ancient fishermen village, Kompong Phluk. There are restaurant and shops available for tourists. Besides, the location also is one of the most beautiful view points during sunset at Tonlé Sap Lake in Cambodia.
Traveling to Tonlé Sap Lake
Tourists can drive through Thai-Cambodian border at Poipet to get in Siem Reap, which will take about 4 hours. Then, it will take no more than an hour to Tonlé Sap Lake by car.
Tourists also can go to Siem Reap by airplane. From airport in Thailand, there are several direct flights to Siem Reap, taking about one hour. Then, it will take another hour taking a ride from the airport to Tonlé Sap Lake