Situated 150km from both Phnom Penh and Battambang in Cambodia lies the peaceful floating village of Kompong Luong. Homes, stores, temples and police stations float silently on the surface of Tonle Sap Lake as residents go about their daily lives, hopping from building to building in longtail boats. In the dry season the entire village is towed, boat by boat, further out into the lake as the water level falls, returning a few months later when it rises again.

A woman goes about her daily life in Kompong Luong

My morning bus departed Battambang for Phnom Penh at 8:30am. The cost for the 300km journey? $8 US. I paid the full fare, but of course I wasn’t going the whole way. If you’ve ever taken a bus in Cambodia then you know that drivers are constantly stopping to pick up and drop off passengers – some are locals only going a few kilometers to visit family and some are more adventurous tourists going off the beaten path. The driver had no problem letting me know when we were in Krakor so that I could jump off the bus.

There are a couple things to note if you plan to make the trek to Kompong Luong. This strategy should, of course, work while going in the opposite direction – Phnom Penh to Battambang. Krakor is actually situated almost exactly half way between the two, so the journey time should be about equal. Also, certain popular guidebooks will tell you that you should get off the bus to find accommodation in Pursat followed by a tuk tuk ride the remaining 50kms to Kompong Luong. There’s no need to stop in Pursat –sufficient accommodation and no need for a long tuk tuk makes Krakor the better choice. I later found out that staying in Kompong Luong is also an easy option.

Returning to Battambang or Phnom Penh the following day is where things get slightly trickier. Arrange your ride at the bus ticket sales office in Krakor either immediately when you arrive or in the early morning before you leave (get there before 8am). They will sell you a ticket and tell you an approximate time to be ready to hop on the bus as it passes through Krakor. In my case, however, this resulted in a loud bang on my door 1 hour before my expected departure at 9:50am. The ticket salesman told me in a frantic panic that the bus had arrived and I had to go right now. Throwing my hands in the air and my stuff in my bag I bolted out of the room, dropped my key and hopped on the bus. Buses run on Cambodia time so be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Arriving in Krakor I walked into the Paris Guesthouse, the only guesthouse in town, and managed to secure a comfortable room for the night in the middle of high tourist season. I don’t think Krakor gets many visitors. Upon arriving in the village I felt a relief that I hadn’t felt since arriving in SE Asia. For the first time I was in a place that was off the tourist path. Not much off the tourist path, mind you – Kompong Luong comes up in every Cambodia guidebook – but it still seems like a destination often bypassed by tourists. Nobody in Krakor was trying to sell me tacky, cheaply made souvenirs. Nobody was calling at me to get into an overpriced taxi as I walked down the street. Restaurants had menus that were only in Khmer and offered meals for prices lower than anywhere else I had been. The authenticity of the small village was an immediate relief.

From Krakor it’s 2-7km to Kompong Luong depending on the time of year and the water level. I dropped my stuff off at the guesthouse and hopped a moto taxi to the edge of the lake for a whopping $2.

A longtail boat tour of the village set me back $9. Prices vary with the number of people in the boat, going down to $2 per person for large groups. The tour operator gave a few options – I chose to see the Khmer Village, but with the large Vietnamese population in Kompong Luong you can also choose to see the Vietnamese side of the village.

I had read about homestay options with families in Kompong Luong, but before arriving I couldn’t find any information on how they could be arranged or whether or not they were easy to come by. I discovered as soon as I arrived that all you need to do is show up and a tour operator will present the option to you. A homestay gives a more authentic and immersive experience than a guesthouse in Krakor, which I had unfortunately already booked. At least this gives me an excuse to come back.

The photos speak for themselves, but Kompong Luong is a uniquely cultural and relaxing experience. Locals hop from boat to boat going about their daily lives and children wave and smile from the windows, excited to see a visitor from outside the village.

The waterway streets of Kompong Luong

Smiling children wave back to the boat in Kompong Luong

Locals in a boat in Kompong Luong

As the afternoon wore on and my visit to Kompong Luong came to an end I decided to take the long walk back to my guesthouse instead of returning by moto. I didn’t make it very far before running into some excited and friendly locals who insisted that I stay for food and beer. That, however, is a story for a different time.