In January 2007, we traveled to Cambodia for the fist time, and the country was still a bit of an untapped tourist destination. Cambodia was said to have 2 million visitor in 2007 and since then the tourism has increased significantly, and should reach over 5 million in 2015. The tourism industry in Cambodia is their second greatest source of income, after the textile industry.
In Cambodia we did all of the TOP tourist things
We spent the first few days in Phnom Penh, and ended our trip in Siem Reap. In Siem Reap we hired a guide and driver (his father, with air-con in his car) to take us around. Each day we were very busy, doing all of the top tourist things to do, and if traveling to Cambodia was not adventurous enough, we asked our guide to take us somewhere off of the beaten path on our final day of tours.
Our day of adventure started in our guides car driving through little villages and markets, on very rough dirt roads and needing to be pushed through huge “pot holes” a few times. Once the car could drive no further we got onto the back of some locals motorcycles, I had never been on a motorcycle before, and I was a wee bit scared. We were in a foreign county, that had just recently started seeing tourist, will zero cell service, on the back of some motorcycles, speeding through Cambodian rice fields to a floating forest destination. We eventually reached a shore, and lone behold a boat with bamboo wicker chairs was there. Oh and dirty mucky brown river water.
The stilted houses were patched together and showed so much poverty
Our boat took off towards Kampong Phluk, a village of stilted houses built within the floodplain of the Tonle Sap. The shack houses looked like they might blow over in a slight breeze. The village is primarily Khmer and has about 3,000 inhabitants, these people depend largely on fishing and tourism for their incomes. Flooded mangrove forest surrounds the area and is home to a variety of wildlife.
After an hour or so on the boat, we docked at the stilted village. Because it was January, the dry season, we were able to walk around and explore the village church, school and small markets selling dried shrimp. This tour was such an eye opener to see how some people live in Cambodia.
On our way back to Siem Reap, we glanced in on a floating market trading fish along the Mekong River. The Mekong River is a trans-boundary river in Southeast Asia that touches along China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Thank you to our amazing guide Kim for the wonderful day exploring the floating forest and villages. Getting a glimpse into the lives of the local Khmer people, I know with the increased amount of tourism over the years, this trip has probably changed some and costs a bit more, but it was really a once in a lifetime experience. Also beware of the scam trips out there that leave from the main boat dock and take you to a floating restaurant with an overpriced market inside.