Cambodia Day 1 – Tonle Sap Lake

Where and when: Siem Reap, Cambodia, April 2023

0845: We leave Singapore early (Read about our 48 hours in Singapore here and here) on the next part of our adventure – to Cambodia. It is a 2 hour flight to Siem Reap.

Leaving Singapore

On the way, we fly over a large body of water, which is Tonle sap lake, the largest inland body of water in Cambodia. With an area of 2700 square kilometres, it is 4 times as large as Singapore – and we will be visiting it later today.

Flying over Tonle sap lake

1015: Land at Siem Reap International Airport. It is very quiet, with only one other plane on the tarmac. The arrival experience is one of the best I have come across anywhere. We receive a VIP welcome (arranged by the tour company) and we are escorted through immigration and luggage collection with minimum fuss.

Flying into Siem Reap
At Siem Reap International Airport

Tip: Tourists from a vast majority of countries can get a tourist visa on arrival in Cambodia. However, you need to bring passport size photos and cash. It is much easier to apply for an e-visa before you arrive, so I really recommend doing this.

1030: Having met our tour guide and driver, we are on our way.  We are heading straight to see the Tonle sap lake. 

There are many communities on the lake and on the tributary rivers to the lake. We visit the Kampong Phluk floating village, built around the Tahas river.

Houses along the river

Although it is called a floating village, all the houses are built on stilts.  This is the dry season, so the water levels are at their lowest and all the stilts are visible, and the houses can be reached by road.  When the rains come, the water level rises several meters to the top floor of the houses, making transport only possible by boat.

Houses along the river

We take a boat along the river towards the open lake. The water level is so low, the boat propeller keeps getting tangled on fishing nets and other debris on the riverbed.

Wooden boats for river and lake safari – this is low tourist season, so many of the boats remain unused
Along the river

Tip: The best time to travel to Cambodia is around November/December/January. It is after the heavy rains so the lakes are full, and it is cooler. April (when we went) is possibly the worst time to visit. It the end of the dry season, so water levels are low, and everywhere is dry and dusty. Temperatures are also at their hottest, getting to 40 degrees Celsius during the day. On the plus side, there are fewer tourists.

On the open lake

Out on the open lake, we visit a crocodile farm. Crocodiles are farmed here for their leather.

1300: After the river safari, we explore the village on foot a little more.

Local snacks – all sorts of dried, fried and baked fish
Local high school – there’s a festival at school before it goes on break for the Khmer New Year

1445: After lunch at a local restaurant, we head to our hotel.

1500: We are staying at La Niche d’Angkor – close to Siem Reap Town Centre. The hotel is small, but has a pool and a restaurant and the staff are really hospitable.

La Niche d’Angkor

1700: After a rest, we head to the local market.

On the streets of Siem Reap

The market is full of sourvernirs for tourists. Like many countries, haggling is expected at the market. So expect to pay about 60% to 70% of the first price you are quoted.


All the prices at the market and almost all of the shops are in US Dollars (USD). In Cambodia, USD is used as much as the local currency, the Cambodian riel. Any payment can be made with USD, riels or a mix of the two. However, small change (less than about 5 USD) is given in riels. The exchange rate is about 4000 riels to 1 USD, so having USD means having to carry less cash around.

On the streets of Siem Reap

Tip: Shops, restaurants and hotels are also very particular about the cash they receive. Old notes, anything that is crumpled or has even the slightest tear is not accepted. So check any change you receive to make sure the cash notes are of good quality, otherwise you will not be able to re-use it.

1830: Back to hotel and dinner.

Dinner – Fried Rice


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