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Slices of Siem Reap

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While Siem Reap is renowned for the ancient Angkor temples, it also offers a few

equally enticing alternatives for tourists who have the time to step off the

beaten track.

It is well worth organizing a day-long boat trip on the

Tonlé Sap, starting at the Chong Khneas harbor with a leisurely one-hour, 25km

ride to Prek Taol. One of five floating villages on the lake, Prek Taol gives

travellers the opportunity to discover an aquatic lifestyle where families live

and work as fishermen entirely surrounded by the immense lake.

There you

will also find Southeast Asia's largest bird sanctuary, which is best visited

during the dry season (January to April) when thousands of birds, many rare and

endangered, flock to the area to breed. Even those not particularly interested

in bird watching will find the massive flocks of egrets, indiashags, bald-headed

ibis, oriental darters, Asian open-billed and other storks and pelicans flying

low over the lake, a breath-taking sight.

Alternatively, Kampong Pluk is

a lesser known floating village situated just 20 minutes by boat from the

regularly visited Chong Khneas. The captivating village offers a rare

opportunity to take a lazy ride through a dense canopy of forest partly

submerged in water. The village is also home to Cambodia's only floating

aquarium, where a display of fish common to the area can be found as well as a

local restaurant offering traditional Khmer dishes.

Returning late

afternoon, take the opportunity to watch the sun set over the lake from the top

deck of the boat. Tour packages are available and range in price from $25-$65

depending on your requirements.

Back in town, for those who don't want to

go out to the lake, The Cultural Village, designed in theme-park style, gives an

impressive representation of the floating villages as well as traditional

housing, farming, arts and cultural performance. It's located on the Airport

Road.

If time is a restricting factor and budget is not, opt for a

bird's-eye view for a different perspective of the Tonlé Sap and its villages by

taking a helicopter ride over Chong Khneas. Helicopters Cambodia offers various

packages starting with a 20-minute flight around Angkor Wat and the Tonlé Sap.

Slices of Siem Reap is a new column being introduced this issue that

aims to provide information on events and happenings in the Siem Reap area. If

you would like to suggest items for the column or have information to share,

please email Bronwyn Burns at: bron_y_aur3@yahoo.com or call her at:

012-192-4429.

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