Tonle Sap lake, located just 15 km south of Siem Reap, is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. This gigantic lake that stretches its muddy waters far beyond the eye can see is literally the fish bowl of Cambodia, providing more than half the fish consumed in Cambodia to feed 3 million people per year. It is home to more than 300 species of fish and 170 floating villages with a total of 80,000 inhabitants. While fishing on Tonle Sap Lake is a dependable and respected profession, the life expectancy of a fisherman is only 54 years due to malnutrition and hazardous working conditions.
Drifting through the colorful floating villages on Tonle Sap Lake is a fascinating, if touristy and somewhat voyeuristic, way to spend the afternoon. I felt a bit like a peeping thomasina, looking in on people napping, fishing, preparing meals, tinkering in their workshops, chatting with friends, and playing basketball. Playing basketball? Yes. The floating village of Chong Kneas comes complete with a new hospital, school with a basketball court, a church, and even a karaoke bar. You have to love their priorities!