The Tonle Sap, also called “Great Lake”, is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and plays an indispensable role in Cambodian life.  An immense lake at the rough geographical center of Cambodia, the Tonle Sap is quite literally the beating heart of the Kingdom of Cambodia.  One million Cambodians directly depend on this lake in living. 90% of those people have stilt houses constructed in the lake and 10% live in floating villages. Altogether there are 170 fishermen villages at the Tonle Sap.

Due to dramatic variations in the lake’s water levels over the seasons, the floating homes are moved regularly to new moorings and the living quarters on some of the stilted homes are relocated up successive levels to stay above the high water mark. The main reason for the Great Lake’s natural wealth is unique annual phenomena called the “return of the river”. This means, the Tonle Sap River, connecting the lake with the Mekong River, regularly changes its direction. Usually it is the outlet of the Tonle Sap Lake, but in June it becomes an inflow of water to the lake.

Kampong Phluk and Kampong Khleang are Khmer villages. They are of a completely different type of construction adapting to the altering water levels: Khmer live on stilt houses. In the seasonally flooded marshlands of the Tonle Sap these houses are up to ten metres high. They offer most spectacular sights at the end of the dry season in April, when the water levels are lowest, whereas they appear to be “floating villages” at the end of the rainy season in October, when houses can only be reached by boat.

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