Spotted! Life on the Tonlé Sap

So you’re going to Cambodia?

Yeah, can’t wait to see Angor Wat! 


And that was the extent of my knowledge of Cambodia’s sights before I stepped foot in the country. Our first destination was Siem Reap, gateway to Angkor Wat and the entire temple complex. We did the mandatory dawn visit to see the sun rise above the temple, then spent the day exploring Ta Prohm, the Bayon and all the other amazing places. We followed it with a night out on Siem Reap’s famous Pub Rd.

The next day we were leaving at 1pm to catch a public bus to Phnom Penh. An optional morning visit was offered to the Tonlé Sap, a freshwater lake not far from Siem Reap. We could squeeze in a morning boat tour seeing the lake and its floating villages.

About half of our tour decided to do the trip to Tonle Sap, seeing as it was pretty early, 7am departure if I recall. Never wanting to miss an opportunity – I signed up, not really knowing anything about it. This was before the days of instagram and lustworthy pinterest boards, so I hadn’t really done much preparation, save for reading my South East Asia guide book.

I was so glad I went! And the advantage of going super early was that the lake was rather empty of boats ferrying tourists to floating crocodile farms and photo opportunities. We were pretty much the only ‘tourists’ around so we really got to see what life was like for the communities that build their homes on the rising waters of the lake.

I Spotted:

A floating school, a floating enclosed basketball court and a floating barber shop

A group of children preparing to paddle their small boats off to school

Children arriving at school and tethering their boats to the side of the classroom for the day

Local fishermen and women selling produce

Morning rituals – washing, cleaning, toddlers running around bare bottomed (so cute)

I found that having a lack of knowledge while visiting Cambodia allowed me to complete take it all in. There was no worrying that I would miss something, instead there were new, undiscovered joys found each day (well undiscovered for me).

In this internet driven, instantly accessible online world of today, I don’t know if I will ever travel with such naivete again, which could quite possibly, be a shame.


I just loved seeing the families going about their business in the early morning, such as this floating, outdoor barber shop. Now I had seen everything!

The school commute, Cambodian lake style.

As a teacher, one of my favourite things to spot and visit are schools! These floating, one room schools were so interesting, and of course all the friendly students waved to us as we passed.

I love this shot of a local man getting his fishing nets ready. You can buy a black and white print of this image at redbubble.

Another, larger floating school.



Check out my other ‘Spotted!’ posts.


2 thoughts on “Spotted! Life on the Tonlé Sap”

  • I agree with your observation about not getting bogged down in the guide books.
    It allows you to be open to the possibilities available on that day……loved your photos!

  • Thanks for stopping by Karen!
    I am sure that you and M do the no guide book walking tour very well!

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