Updated: Jan 25, 2019
You've been to the temples, checked out the Old Market, and have some time left to see one of Cambodia's unique floating villages. With so many choices, you might be wondering which floating village is the best to visit during your trip? Here are 6 Reasons why Kompong Khleang (sometimes spelled Kampong or Khampong Khleang) is your best floating village option in Siem Reap.
Kompong Khleang is the Least Touristy: Chong Kneas has been designed to be a major tourism center. The owner has invested in the infrastructure to meet the demands of tourists (like the impressive souvenir shop and restaurants you'll stop at along the way). If you've come to the floating villages because your craving a cheeseburger or you'd like a photo of yourself taken on a souvenir plate this might be an option for you. But, if like most tourists, you've come to see an undisturbed community and way of life preserved for generations, Kompong Khleang is by far your best choice.
Kompong Khleang doesn't have the level of "Scams": If you've done your research you've learned that many of the floating villages in Siem Reap have become rife with scams and, unfortunately, some people actually leave Siem Reap with a bad taste in their mouth. Fortunately, that's not the case in Kompong Khleang - there is simply not the level of scam infrastructure (in the form of floating markets for tourists, overpriced rice depots, souvenir shops, and commission restaurants) that you'll find elsewhere. You should still do your research ahead of time though and, when traveling on your own, make sure you negotiate your fare with your driver beforehand and ask for the specific itinerary so there are no "surprises." If done properly it is unlikely you will have a negative experience and traveling on a reviewed group tour, whether with us or others, ensures zero issues will arise.
Traveling to Kompong Khleang Allows You to See More of Cambodia: Kompong Khleang is both the largest and furthest floating village in Siem Reap province (Prek Toal is further but technically located in Battambang). It is a bit off the beaten track and takes about an hour to reach by car. While this might seem far, it's actually an excellent opportunity to see what lies outside of Siem Reap city. Depending on the time of year you'll have the chance to see a countryside full of rice paddies, local markets bustling with shoppers, cows in search of food, and miles and miles of forests and mangroves. Because Kompong Khleang is the largest floating village you'll drive past 100's of stilted homes above the Tonle Sap - all with different builds, styles, materials, and paint. This is something you can miss if you choose to travel to Chong Kneas and, to a lesser extent, Kompong Phluk.
Kompong Khleang is the Least Crowded: There's nothing worse than arriving at a floating village only to meet a mob of other tourists. This can be the case at the floating village of Chong Kneas which, during high season, can see upwards of 7,000 tourists per day (predominately large group tour companies). Because of the number of tourists, it can sort of feel like it's a circus with people being rushed around and aggressive boat drivers more concerned about the quantity of customers than the quality of your experience. Kompong Khleang is much different. Around the holidays you will see a few vans and buses but there is never a wait to go on a boat. And, believe it or not, if you visit during the evening in the low season summer months, it's entirely possible you'll be the only foreigners in the village during your trip. This happens to us all the time on our dry season group tour, and it's quite a unique feeling.
Kompong Khleang Actually has Three Floating Villages: Kompong Khleang is the main floating village you will see and where you board the boat. But did you know there is more than just Kompong Khleang on the trip? That's right. On the boat out to the lake you'll have the chance to see two other floating villages consisting of houseboats. The first is Chong Prolay, which is a Khmer floating village home to several hundred residents. A few minutes later you'll also pass through an ethnic Vietnamese floating village. All of the homes in these two villages are houseboats and, like the homes in Kompong Khleang, vary in size, shape and design. These homes are different than the stilted homes in Kompong Khleang as they float throughout the year. Both villages are relatively autonomous as well with their own schools. So a visit to Kompong Khleang means you are essentially seeing three different floating villages for the price of one.
Visiting Kompong Khleang Truly Benefits the Residents: This, in our opinion, is the most important reason to visit Kompong Khleang and the reason why socially responsible travelers tend to seek it out. Kompong Khleang is the only floating village in Siem Reap whose rights are owned by residents of the village. A little over 70 individuals participate in the ecotourism boat cooperative and they share profits from the boat tickets and tourism tax. If you travel later in the day, you'll usually see some of the boats parked outside the individual owner's home. This is in stark contract to both Chong Kneas and Kompong Phluk whose rights are owned by the same individual. In addition, and as mentioned earlier, Kompong Khleang is the least visited. Because of this they are not earning as much as the other floating villages and stand to benefit the most from the additional revenue which directly enters their local economy.
As we have shared above, we truly believe Kompong Khleang is the best Siem Reap floating village. It doesn't have the level of scams, is much less visited and touristy, and benefits the most from your presence. Whether you decide to join our group tour, another tour companies' tour, or travel on your own, we truly recommend you spend your time in Kompong Khleang.
[Disclosure: We have a tour company that does tours of Kompong Khleang to support the work of Bridge of Life School. Nevertheless, the statements made in this post are true and we encourage you to visit Kompong Khleang with us or others.]