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I had already spent 3 days at Angkor Wat, but my inquisitive spirit and a sense of adventure were telling me that there was more to discover in Siem Reap than just the famous ruins.

“I can take you to some floating village, maybe good to see” – suggested my amazing tuk-tuk driver, who was by far the best thing that ever happened to me in Siem Reap. He knew everything and was the kindest and most genuine man I have ever met. I wasn’t going to question him.

“Perfect. Let’s go!”

We were dropped off at the shores of Tonlé Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, located a short drive from Siem Reap. Boats of all sizes and colours lined the shores, boatmen patiently waiting to take passengers to Kampong Phluk, a floating village built on stilts on the Tonlé Sap. It’s $1 for a local to get across, but for us, a group of 3 curious backpackers, the price is $20 per person for an afternoon “tour”.

Boats waiting to pick up passengers at Tonlé Sap
Boats waiting to pick up passengers at Tonlé Sap

Floating through the mangroves we passed by herds of cattle feeding on the grass (or rice?) growing out of the water. I was taken aback by the peacefulness of the calm waters of Tonlé Sap lake.

Cow feeding in Tonglé Sap
Cow feeding in Tonglé Sap
Scenic views of Tonlé Sap
Scenic views of Tonlé Sap
Despite a few boats in the area, the water stays incredibly still
Despite a few boats in the area, the water stays incredibly still

Life in Kampong Phluk throws you back a few decades. Here, just a short tuk-tuk ride away from the flashing lights, and 5 start luxury hotels of Siem Reap, is a village that has no streets, no shops, no restaurants, no cars, and no tuk-tuks. But in this village life goes on as it would anywhere else in Cambodia.

Kampong Phluk - a village on stilts in Tonlé Sap
A school and other government buildings in Kampong Phluk, a village on stilts in Tonlé Sap
Houses on stilts in Kampong Phluk village
Houses on stilts in Kampong Phluk village
Young girl watches over the boats from the balcony in the house
Young girl watches over the boats from the balcony in the house
A mother and her child making their way across the river canal
A mother and her child making their way across the river canal
Kids learn to operate boats at an early age
Kids learn to operate boats at an early age
Daily life at Kampong Phluk
Daily life at Kampong Phluk
Kampong Phluk residents selling produce at a make shift floating market
Kampong Phluk residents selling produce at a make shift floating market

While floating along the canals in Kampong Phluk, I wondered what it would feel like to live your life in a floating village. Would you miss being able to run around the streets as a kid? Would you struggle with the constant need to get around by boat? Would you struggle to go to school? Or work?

There are over 3,000 people living at Kampong Phluk. Many are fisherman, but some ,whose houses are located a bit further out, also farm. There is no running water in the village so the residents rely on the water in the lake for all their washing and cooking needs. They have what they need to get by.

Many argue that a floating village experience in Cambodia is a tourist trap. Some of the floating villages along Tongle Sap, particularly Chong Kneas, have lost its authenticity and has become nothing more than tourist traps, charging visitors steep entry fees, coercing them into buying bags of rice for the “poor villagers” and begging for tips and further donations along the way.

In 2012, Kampong Phluk was still rather untouched by tourism. There was a small cafe where one could grab a bite to eat, and mangrove tours, offered by local women in small boats. The rest of the village went about their lives without so much as a blink in our direction. They had seen enough visitors passing by their village to not drop what their doing and stare, yet the influx hasn’t yet sparked the tourist scams and traps, as some might expect.

Local women navigate through the mangroves in Kampong Phluk
Local women navigate through the mangroves in Kampong Phluk village

Visiting a floating village of Kampong Phluk is certainly a unique experience that exposes you to the hardships and tribulations facing the locals on a day to day basis. For me, it was a window into the realities of Cambodian life that helped me get just a little bit closer to understanding the complexities of life in this beautiful country.

BEFORE YOU GO: Don’t forget travel insurance!

We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance, especially in a country like Cambodia. Whether you plan to explore the cities or spending a few days visiting famous attractions, being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. We learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way and now we never travel without coverage.

Get a quote through our recommended insurance provider, World Nomads.

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Kampong Phluk floating village Near Siem Reap offers a unique experience, that exposes you to the hardships and tribulations facing the locals daily life.

Have you ever visited a floating village in Cambodia? What surprised you the most?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

6 thoughts on “A Journey Through Kampong Phluk Floating Village in Cambodia”

  1. Great photos and thanks for sharing your trip as it made us decide to go. We were concerned regarding scams so we went with a tour company called The Kompong Phluk Experience. It was great and a bonus was some local food. This is their website http://www.kompongphluk.com in case it can be of help. Anyways definitely recommend visiting Kompong Phluk.

  2. If you like this, I would also recommend Kampung Ayer in Brunei. Brunei probably isn’t a destination by itself, but if you are nearby and have a day or two, I highly recommend it!

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