Beautiful Kompong Khleang

Kompong Kleang11

'Main Street' Kompong Khleang

(Note: due to the slow Internet here in Laos the posting has less pictures in the body. At the end is the usual link to the full album which I thankfully uploaded in Siem Reap)

On each of my three trips to Cambodia I have visited a new place on Tonle Sap. On my first trip I started as most people do with the floating villages at Chong Khneas. Last year we did Kompong Phluk and this year I made it to what I thought to be the best of all three, Kompong Khleang.

Since I had never seen anything like any of these places before, I found the floating villages I first visited to be really interesting. Last year we visited Kompong Phluk which is a stilted village in a flooded forest as they say. I found that more interesting than the floating villages from the previous year because it was much less touristy with no floating cafes annex souvenir shop annex crocodile farm. I also had the impression, admittedly as a completely uninformed outside visitor but with decent intuition, that there was more sense of community there. And that would be logical as Kompong Phluk is a permanent village versus the floating villages that relocate with the ebb and flow of the lake.

So this year,

the furthest and by far least visited place by tourists was on the agenda. I found Kompong Khleang, about Kompong Kleang19an hour and a half drive by tuk tuk, to be more than worth the extra time and expense to get there. My impression is that it is a more extensive and widespread settlement than Kompong Phluk. It is so interesting that you have to be careful that you don’t end up seeing the entire village through the viewfinder of your camera.

Kompong Kleang28

Yield for school bus

We were taking our tour around the time that school gets out (or begins for the afternoon) so the waters were full of school kids in their boats going to or coming from school which was cool. We motored out to where the tree line ends and visibly demarcates where the lake actually begins in the dry season. Out there we had a great swim before heading back. I put my camera away for the return journey, vowing to myself to just enjoy and take in the experience. But the people we passed along the way were just too interesting and too friendly to pass up. I did manage the last fifteen minutes sans camera.

We had the boatman drop us off about a kilometer and a half away from where we started and walked back on the road that some of the homes are built next to. That was also a great experience getting to interact with all the kids and seeing some of the economic activity a bit more up close.

There were many places where they were unloading, packing and weighing fish that would then be jammed into cars Kompong Kleang45devoid of any interior except the driver’s seat for the journey mostly to the Thai border. The villagers were getting about 2,000 riels per kilo which the dealers will sell at the border for around 10,000 riels per kilo from what I was told.

Whether the dealers make such a huge profit in the end was unclear as no one was able or willing to explain how much their additional costs were especially for the apparently many commissions (or bribes) that are collected along the way. But just by looking at the dealers, the fellows who were supervising and noting all the weights in a notebook at each packing place, it seemed clear to me just by how they were dressed and their demeanor that they enjoyed a very different socio-economic lifestyle than the villagers.

It had the distinct air that I recall so well from my childhood and youth growing up as a ‘boss man’s’ son in a small semi-rural industrial town with a lot of underclass and illegal laborers. I wondered to myself if the villagers would be well or ill served in the end by establishing their own cooperatives, buying their own vehicles and then sharing in the profits of the entire distribution chain.

Kompong Kleang51

Throw it back in and tell it to get its big brother

On the way home we stopped at a new restaurant that was really great. Besides the normal outdoor eating area they have many small open-air huts where you can also eat or do some hammocking after lunch. Chov also got back to his village roots with some fishing, the fruits of which went either back into the river if the catch was too small which most were. One fish got relocated to the lucky fish pond of the restaurant. This restaurant is also a great place to stop if you visit Kompong Phluk, the Roulos Group or Beng Melea. Sorry I don’t have the name but your driver will know it.

If you only have time to visit one location on Tonle Sap then I would recommend Kompong Khleang for the best experience. It is well worth the extra time and bit more for transportation to get there. The costs for the boatman will be the same as in Kompong Phluk ($20).

Album Kompong Khleang

Kompong Khleang

(Thinking of visiting the temples of Angkor Wat? Don’t forget to check out my friend Savuth’s tuk tuk services!)

~ by Leonard on October 30, 2009.

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