Trip Start Dec 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 03, 2011

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Where I stayed
Asia hotel

Flag of Cambodia  , Kâmpóng Chhnăng,
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

There seemed to be only four main guesthouses/hotels in Kompong Chhnang. At least within the town centre. This town was rather quiet although apparently popular with the NGO people working with the communities. The main attraction however was the fishing port up north to the Tonle Sap river.
The busy port that stretched at least 1 km was quite a cultural treat. Small pontoons of fish markets were packed with punters hustling over freshly loaded catches in plastic containers. The tiny floating ferry port was in constant chaos with people loading goods and passengers trying to secure a good seat onboard. The dry season had the tide so low, I was standing at the foot of the concrete stumps that were the foundations of these river stilt houses. The sights of rubbish, sewerage and rotting fishes were intense. In this heat, the stench of all these combined was overwhelming. Yet the locals carried on nonchalantly, with their toddlers playing around rubbish heaps swarmed with flies. This place is not a slum. It is a floating village (off the riverbank) meet fish market. The two floating villages are predominately ethnic Vietnamese - refugees from the Vietnam war.
At the tourism port, I tried to buy a shared cruise ticket along Tonle Sap but without success (language barrier). Resting at only stretch that looked like a promenade, I chanced upon a group of Asian family boarding a tourist boat and took the opportunity to enquire if I could perhaps join them for a few dollars. The boat owner wanted US$5 which I thought was a rippoff but I agreed anyway. The slow boat turned out to be more than I had expected. The first stop was a floating fishery where we watched how the locals sort out their catch according to fish sizes. There seemed to be a big pump sucking everything from the riverbed, collecting fishes into a net pool. This appeared to be a similar setup for all other fisheries we passed by later. We then visited a huge fish farm with a more sophisticated fish catchment compound made of timber and filmsy nets. As we leave the farm on the boat, we had to exit a water gate, meant to contain live fish stocks. On our way back, a tugboat was spotted ferrying a floating pontoon house to its new location. Apparently in the wet season, the entire floating village get relocated further down the Tonle Sap river.
Once back at the port, I caught sight of an old timber bridge spanning precariously from the port's hidden alleyway to another floating village settlement. Most of these settlements were actually permantly raised on stilts, allowing for the wet season's high tide to float the banks. The views to the settlement from this bridge were incredible although traversing across was quite a challenge. The dusty track back to the middle of the lower market was a real treat to my camera. Rustic yet picturesque at the same time. Making my way out of the market, the sights of expansive rice paddy fields beyond were amazing. The sun glistering on the flooded plains, the rice farmers toiling away at a distance...had me for a while.
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