The floating village is sold as some sort of tour that is one of the things “to do” around Siem Reap.
We took a tuk-tuk an hour out there, then found the fee to hire a boat was about $30 USD. We might have figured there was a fee, but for Cambodia this is a complete rip off. But when you’ve made your way all the way there, you’re a captive audience that’s not likely to say ‘forget it’ and go home.
We should have.
We spent an hour cruising through floating slums. We were told that most of the people who lived there couldn’t afford land, so made a life on the water. Sometimes for generations. He told us the villagers “didn’t mind” the tourists coming through on boats, but as I observed faces through my telephoto lens, it didn’t seem at all like they wanted another camera pointing at them. No one wants to live like zoo animals.
The guides brought us to a “crocodile farm”, which was nothing more than a leather bag breeding pool that had been built into the floor of a floating shop. As we ‘took our break’ there, children carrying snakes floated up beside us, trying to sell photo ops.
The guides had been going on about donating to the local school. Then he brought us to a rice shop where we were given the option of handing over $60 USD or $30 USD to donate rice to the orphans. Just hand over the money, they’ll take care of it. I laughed and got back in the boat. First of all, it’s absurd to think that rice costs that much in Cambodia. That was the giveaway. Subsequent internet searches have found frequent postings about this scam. It’s said the orphanage will even use children who have parents to try and part tourists with ‘donations’.
If you visit Cambodia, beware of these and other hustles. If you want to give to charity, make sure to give through valid agencies.