Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South-East Asia and is designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, covering an area of around 250,000 hectares in the dry season. Due to a unique phenomenon, when the monsoon begins, the swollen waters of the Mekong River force the Tonle Sap River to reverse its flow northwards, feeding the Great Lake and spreading over the surrounding flood plain. During the dry season it is roughly 2,500 km2, swelling to about 4 times it size in during the wet season: 10,000 km2.
Our exploration starts at Kampong Phluck, a village a bit further away from Siem Reap than usual – but significantly more interesting as it receives fewer tourists. This stilted village is a little more authentic, made up of fisherman and their families living amongst a flooded mangrove forest.
From Kampong Phluck, board a local boat for a cruise on the lake. You see houses on stilts, submerged with the lake extends, and pass floating houses (stopping at one for lunch) and flooded forests.
Return back to Siem Reap in the mid-afternoon or alterantively, continue your tour and head to the quiet Beng Mealea, around 40 miles from Siem Reap. This is an in-frequently visisted temple complex, completely overgrown. Undiscovered for centuries, Beng Mealea is one of the very few temples that actually provides the opportunity to climb through it.
In the afternoon you then head to the Roluos Group, in the deep countrysode about 8 miles from Siem Reap. The Roluos is the site of an ancient center of Khmer civilization known as Hariharalaya and as such the oldest temple complex of this area, dating back to the 8th and 9th century. There are three main temples Bakong, Preah Ko and Lolei which you explore on a 1.5 mile walking tour. The surrounding countryside, made up of paddy fields and sugar palm trees, is typically Cambodian.
There is opportunity for a cow cart ride to Roluos Pagoda. Everything looks magnificant in the late afternoon light. In a small contemporary pagoda, Buddhist monks will celebrate a private blessing ceremony for you, wishing you health and a safe journey.
After your adventurous exploration it is time to return to your hotel.