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[CAMBODIA] Day 3: Phnom Penh to Siam Reap, Visit Tonle Sap (the scam) @ Siam Reap

The market marathon marks an ending to our market marathon in Phnom Penh, and we embarked our journey to the much anticipation destination - Angkor Wat and Tonle Sap. Angkor Wat is definitely not a miss shall you come to Cambodia but seriously one could just forget about Tonle Sap - Chong Khneas Floating Village. It turned out to be one of biggest conspiracy targeting tourists, tainting the image of Cambodia tourism, or scambodia. Chong Khneas Floating Village was totally rife with people, trying to rob every dollars off you.

Sunset View at Chong Khneas Floating Village, Tonle Sap
We pre-arranged with OKAY guest house to book a sleeping coach from Phnom Penh to Siam Reap for 12 USD/pax. Transportation was prepared by the guest house to the bus rallying point.

The bus services offered. Apart from Siam Reap, one could basically travel to anywhere from Phnom Penh and you just need to worry about your wallet

The sleeping coach. Above bed was designated for two people. comes with 2 small pillows and blankets.
The sleeping coach was quite comfortable for me, at least. It comes with a "double bed" just fit enough for 2 people of my size (I am rather small actually). The bus departed exactly at 12:00am and went through some bumpy road and unprecedented brakes, stopped few times for toilet break (on certain occasions there were just grass) and we arrived safely at Siam Reap bus station at 9:30am in the morning.

Upon disembarked from the bus, hordes of tuk-tuk drivers will surround you, seeing you as a gold mine and trying to get the deal done with you. As they know, once they secure you to their tuk-tuk, very likely they are able be "employed" for the next few days. I have no problems with that as everybody will do their best for survival but their approach were too aggressive and caused me uncomfortable.

Eventually we managed to settle with 1 of the tuk-tuk driver who were more persistent. For 4 USD per tuk-tuk, he agreed to send us to Bun Kaw Guest House. 

There it started the biggest tourism conspiracy ever in the land of scambodia.
Price list in every room at Bun Kaw Guest House. Notice the 15 USD per pax for floating village ticket?
 Well, in every room of the guest house has this information sheet sticked on the wall. Every piece of information is correct, except the 15 USD per pax for floating village, which we realised after we came back from Cambodia.

The tuk-tuk driver agreed for return trips to Tonle Sap for 8 USD per tuk tuk. Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as an UNESCO biosphere in 1997. The size of the lake changes in size and dimensions during different season, hence the people who live on the lake are living on floating village which is mobile.

It was a long journey to Tonle Sap and en route there you will see scarce of houses along the road with such design. The whole journey takes about 40 minutes.

Boat terminal for departure
Scenic view at the terminal

Upon arrival at the terminal for departure to Chong Khneas Floating Village, Tonle Sap, one is required to purchase the ticket at the ticketing counter. The whole building is seemingly run by a company. Then we were told that price per pax is 15 USD but we felt suspicious. Why?

1) The guy at the ticketing counter will chase us off whenever we stand nearby the ticketing counter
2) We accidentally heard the guy offered the ticket for 20 USD per pax to Caucasian visitors.
3) The next time when we approach the ticketing counter, we were told the ticket price per pax is 20 USD.
4) The very "friendly" tuk-tuk driver seems to always sit nearby to us when we were discussing, more like monitoring the progress of we purchase the ticket. Commission?

Nevertheless, since we are here for only 1 times and we do not miss out the great Tonle Sap and Chong Khneas Floating Village (which we thought), we purchased the ticket for 15 USD per pax. 

Ticket for boat ride to Chong Khneas Floating Village
We got 8 cheaply produced ticket for 120 USD. There was no price stamped on the ticket which means the ticket guy could have sky rocket the price to any figure they deemed suitable. Perhaps one could try wear some gold necklaces and jades to see what price you will get for a ticket. Then we happily pass the ticket to the boatman, and the boatman only tear off 1 ticket out of the 8 tickets (remember this). We picked the time near to sunset so that we could enjoy the sunset view at the floating village.

Prior to departure to Chong Khneas Floating Village, one of our friend was warned by a Caucasian couple - If you were to offered by the boatman to visit some church and school to play with their children and observe how poor they are. Do not go as they will force you to buy a packet of rice for 60 USD for donation after the trip. My god, 60 USD for a packet of rice? 

Captain Jack Sparrow. Indeed we got robbed by pirates this trip
Captain Barbosa

Surprises were common in the boat trip. Out of no where there will be a children hopped to your boat from nearby bots who were tailing you, selling a can of Coke or 100 Plus for 1 USD. Just politely reject them and they will go away.

Cautious should be exercised when snapping pictures of the other boats pass by as they will come and demanding money from you. We were zooming around with the camera, then the above girl with snake came to us and ostensibly threatening us with the snakes for 1 USD for taking her photo. It appeared this whole Tonle Sap journey was an act of chicaning! 
Chong Khneas Floating Village - 1
Chong Khneas Floating Village - 2
The tourist gathering point at Chong Khneas Floating Village

The boatman dropped us at one of the floating village. It was actually a restaurant cum shop selling clothes, souvenirs and animal specimens. There is a crocodile farm at the shop as well, with a few of the crocodiles crawling beneath the net.

There comes the suspension! That was all for the trip to Chong Khneas Floating Village. You paid 15 USD per pax just to see some some caged reptiles, few specimens and a souvenir shop. The other activity you could do here is watch the sunset. Imagine if you come at 1pm, what else could you do here? 

Photo time since we have a lot of time to spare
Sunset view at Tonle Sap
Sunset view at Tonle Sap
Capturing the sunset
On our way back to the the terminal, the friendly yet nefarious boatman asked us if we would like to pay the children at the school a visit. Recalling the advice by the Caucasian couple, we rejected the offer. There marks an end to the visit to the Great Tonle Sap, greatest fresh water lake in South East Asia which offered the best experience ever.

It was indeed an atrocious experience ever in Cambodia. We thought we could get an experience to to witness the lifestyle of the nomad of the floating village or have a peek at the biodiversity of mangrove forest at Tonle Sap but none of it materialised. What we got were entrapped into a series of business opportunity controlled by a group of people, while the locals are still struggling to earn a living perhaps.

After back from the trip and do some research on the internet, we found out the ticket purchased was meant for per boat rental and not by per pax. That means, we only needed to pay 15 USD only and 8 of us could cramp into that boat if it did not exceed the safety limit. However we were conned to buy 8 tickets and no wonder the boatman just tear one of the ticket. The company who is running the business must be grinning after us!
Poser friend posing in front of the boat 
Nevertheless, just cheer up! The money was well spent to buy an expensive experience.We were here only once for ever and it occupied a great segment in our cerebrum.

We hope for a better day at Angkor Wat tomorrow.

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