06 Nov SCAM-bodia!!! Kampong Phluk Village
When in a new country, it’s always nice to see how the locals live – or get a taste of how their daily lives go. It adds to the experience, which leads to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the country, that’s why I decided to say yes to Kampong Phluk.
Kampong Phluk is a floating village (and community) on Tonle Sap, near Siem Reap. It’s a community (self-sustaining, I suppose?) set on stilts on the river, with community offices, a school, water facility, and dedicated marketplace. In the wet season, the entire village is accessible only by boat.
To get there, you drive from the city for about 30 to 45 minutes (if my memory serves me right), and then sail on a makeshift motorised boat for about 30-45 minutes to the floating villages. The crazy tour (albeit scenic) begins here.
Our boatman (local, no habla) took us to the floating village to see the community; literally a sightseeing kind of boat tour. Towards the end of the floating village is a barge for a quick snack (crazy expensive, given how dodgy the place looked), which also served as a jumping point to a smaller boat which will take you around and through the mangrove forest (for an extra $5).
It started drizzling, which continued to a heavy downpour, so staying further for the sunset was pointless. We asked to be brought back to where we took off then. The boat was a wee bit too old and dodgy to survive the heavy rain (lol); no life vests, too ..
Don’t get me wrong – I have great respect for Cambodians, and being given the chance to see how this rural area in the Siem Reap Province lives is something I really appreciate. I just don’t understand the idea of exploiting the rural lifestyle in such setting, as if they want us to feel sorry for them when in fact, this is something worth embracing; it’s a huge part of their culture. That’s on top of the fact that they charge you $25 (per person!!!) to see the village – which is, for perspective, $5 more than a one-day pass around Angkor. I think that says a lot.
I didn’t go on the smaller boat through the mangroves, but later in my Siem Reap visit, I met with a friend and other tourists who have been and was told that they got offered many times to buy books, rice, food, and other “necessities” for their children – as if they’re exploiting their own for tourists to feel sorry and give more money.
Should you go? Meh. Maybe it depends, but if I knew earlier, I wouldn’t have gone. It is a nice place to see, no doubt; I don’t know of any other community that lives on stilts with a school, working water system, and offices – that part is quite impressive. But otherwise, all things considered, it’s a waste of time and money for me.
Is it really a scam? Maybe not, but it’s a highway robbery sugarcoated in a “cultural” tour. I don’t know where the $25 fee goes, too, but our hired driver around town mentioned that it goes to the boatmen. If that’s 101% accurate, then that’s exploiting the people in the rural village. And I think that’s sad.
This is a secondary Cambodia entry. Main Siem Reap entry is here.
Find the good in getting lost,