Known as “The Beating Heart of Cambodia” due to a great natural phenomenon that happens annually. During the dry season, the Tonle Sap Lake is serene but when the monsoon season arrives, the lake can swell up to 5 times more than its size, in some places it swells from 1 meter to 10. This is Cambodia’s life-giving resource, it was the basis for the formation, success, and ultimate destruction of the great Khmer Empire and remains an essential part of the daily lives of the people.
There are numerous entry points to the lake especially during the wet season where its banks reach many cities and towns. But if you’re staying in Siem Reap, independent tuk-tuk drivers can take you there for a minimal fee. It is home to one-third of the country’s population and these people live either on stilted houses along its banks or in charming floating villages. The four main floating villages where you could experience life in Tonle Sap are Chong Kneas, Kampong Phluk, Kampong Khleang, and Mechrey.
The Tonle Sap is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve because of its social, cultural, and scientific importance. It is rich in marine life and wildlife and hosts a wide variety of bird species that can be experienced where visitors can see via the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary in the Prek Toal Village. The lake is constantly under threat from political and economic forces which should be more of a motivation for one to visit just to take in the culture of the people of Tonle Sap.