Tonlé Sap means ‘Large freshwater river’.
It was mid-November in 2017 and we still had a 16-hour flight from Rome to Siem Reap with stopovers in Abu Dhabi and Bangkok ahead of us. My group was composed of three others and we were eager to get lost in the Buddhist temples of Ankor. But even more than our desires of plain tourism, we wanted to travel through the waters of the Tonlé Sap. The river shares name with the Tonlé Sap Lake, one of the most important places in Cambodia due to its huge role as a healthy freshwater ecosystem able to support Cambodia’s people, wildlife and economy.
Alongside the riverbank many boats are now floating houses. This, is the Floating Village. Very frequented by tourists, it doesn’t have streets nor street numerals as the waters of Tonlé Sap have taken the role of the roads. Along these roads one can find hordes of vendors carrying many a bargain, folks passing by non-stop and and endless stream of fishers coming and going. The river is intertwined in such manner with he local’s life that there’s nothing more common for the children than diving straight into the water from their verandas.
This is a village by its own right, it has everything its inhabitants need: a police station floating markets, fisheries, clinics, schools…
Everything here elapses on water.
Many of the inhabitants here also own huts in the suburbs inland but prefer staying by the water because their children have grown up here and their life revolves around the water.