This visit was quite accidental. We thought we had told Mr Ben to take us to the Rulous group of temples, instead he gathered that we wanted to visit the Floating village. So, when the tuk tuk stopped, we found ourselves staring not at temple ruins, but a wide open field with nothing around except a dirt track and a small stream with boats.

This, was floating village or rather the way to the floating village. The ride costs $20 per person and a small boat takes the visitors through a village that exits entirely on water.

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What a Glorious evening it was. As far as my eyes could see, it was a wide expanse of blue skies with massive clouds looming above us. It was as if the heavens had opened up where the road had just ended. Just being there feeling one with the elements of nature, gave me goosebumps.

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Along with the three of us, four residents of the Floating village also jumped onboard – one old man, a woman and schoolgirl amongst them. As none of them could speak English (and of course we couldnt speak their native language), they just smiled at us all along the way.

The stream soon grew bigger and opened up into a pond. The boatman steered the boat around and as we were facing west, we got marvelous views of the setting sun.

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Soon, the houses started to emerge. It was an amazing sight. An entire ecosystem thriving on water – houses, school, shops standing in water on stilts. Women were washing clothes and cooking food, kids attending to pigs in a sty perched high up on a stilt, children returning home from school. I even spotted a mini temple, and a toddler rowing a boat all by himself!
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We spotted a number of tourist boats heading back to the stream. It did seem we were a bit late in starting off as we didn’t see any more boats coming towards the village, it was just us. Soon, all the natives had been dropped to their homes and it was just the three of us with the boatman.

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Soon the houses started to thin out and the pond started getting bigger. The foliage also became denser and it was fun to ride through the submerged trees – a jungle on water. There were a number of boatmen wading through the trees probably out fishing.
Suddenly, the motor of the boat went off. The boat was very near one of the floating houses. It took some time for the boatman to fix the motor. It could have been a bit annoying had we not whiled away the time playing with a toddler perched in his crib.

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As the boats from the opposite direction crossed us, they violently shook our tiny boat. It was a little unsettling, but thankfully we got a move on. By that time, it was just our boat, the rest had all disappeared. The sun was going down really fast now, and it seemed that the water level was rising as well.
a1c30-311359_538481596181800_136583642_n And I think this picture on the left, is the one just before the trees suddenly vanished and the pond/stream we were in opened up into a huge open water body. I didn’t know at the time but this was the Great Lake or the Tonle Sap Lake, the one which borders the Siem Reap city – the largest fresh-water lake of South East Asia.

I was a little taken aback, as this seemed much, much bigger than a lake. One can usually spot the other side of a lake. Not here! All I could see was water in all directions with no land in sight.  The sun had almost set by then, and it was quite spooky being in the middle of a vast water body on a tiny boat with not a soul in sight. It seemed quite clear now why we were the only ones going away from the village, while everyone else was returning back.

And then it happened again. The motor gave away. With that level of water and thrashing waves, the boat started rocking from side to side. Fear of water kicked in. I looked at the boatman in despair, who simply grinned back apparently enjoying the situation.

A quick note about the swimming capabilities of the group. One of my friends is a good swimmer, I can swim but am not very confident around water, and my other friend – lets just say she is best kept away from water. The boat was now tilting close to 30 degrees on either side. Clutching the boat hard, I started focusing on staying afloat in case the boat tipped over. At the same time, I couldn’t help thinking that this was the end and I was going to drowning in Siem Reap. I heard my friend praying hard. “Stay calm”, said my swimmer friend. Seriously? Stay clam? In this? :

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Thankfully, after a few minutes of scare, which seemed like way more, the damned motor started again. We begged the guy to turn back. There was no way I was venturing further out into that lake at twilight in such an unreliable boat. The boat turned back, and I calmed down only when the trees and houses came back in view.

Phew.

Soon, the sun set completely and there was nothing more to see. With the adrenaline subsiding, we all dozed off one by one. Without realizing we had traveled for some 50 mins, and it took that much time to get back.

Finally the boatman delivered us back to Mr Ben. I don’t think I have ever been this thankful of being on solid ground again. As a bonus, we even spotted the Milky Way in that dark lonely stretch. From here it was back to Angkor city and some more merriment in Pub Street. After all it was the last day in Siem Reap.

More from my trip:

Cambodia diaries: Race to Siem Reap
Cambodia diaries: Temple Run in Angkor Thom
Cambodia diaries: Mystique of Ta Prohm
Cambodia diaries: Chilling in Pub Street
Cambodia diaries: Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Cambodia diaries: Banteay Srei and Landmine Museum
Cambodia diaries: Phnom Penh
Cambodia diaries: Expenses and itinerary

*Thanks to my friends who contributed their pics for this post 🙂
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