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Tonle Sap Lake Floating Village Scam

Danica Modesta

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Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, it is so large that you cannot see the other side of the lake. All you see is an endless horizon. One of the "highlights" of Tonle Sap Lake is the river cruise on a rickety boat. Once you get on the boat, you're basically at the mercy of these scammers. I heard there are two piers, one operated by the government which is supposedly cheaper. Unfortunately for me, I had a scammer tour guide.

I read later, that the normal price would be about $30 for an entire boat but my then future spouse, mother and I were charged $90 for the boat. The boat was in such a shit ass condition that when my mother stepped onto the boat, the planks gave way and my mom fell through. She was alright, so it's pretty hilarious now that I think about it. I'm a bad child.

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The guide that came with the boat was quite chatty in the beginning, telling us stories about the Vietnamese war and the culture. That was obviously his set up to the scam. When he got our attention, he started on some sob story about orphaned kids that lost their parents to drowning. If you spent your entire life on water, you would imagine they are pretty good swimmers or at least learned the ability to walk on water.

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We were told there were two orphanages, a Christian orphanage and a Buddhist orphanage. I have to hand it to this guy, he was smart. My mom and then future spouse is Chinese, if we weren't atheists, high chance we would either be Buddhist or Christian. If we wanted to help these poor kids, we would stop at a supplies store and buy rice. My mom who is a devout Catholic decided that we need to help these poor kids. Seriously mom?

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The guy waving in that photo is the shop owner, I don't know his name so let's call him Wanker 2. The white bags you see in the photo is the rice. It's $90 per bag. I don't know what sort of rice they eat, but I have never had 90 dollar rice before. They asked us to buy two bags because there are a lot of kids. My mom is all up for it. What the fuck, mom? After much negotiating with my mom, we agreed on one bag of rice.

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When we got to the orphanage, I swear Wanker 1, who is our guide, jumped out of the boat and flipped a hanging photo of Buddha to a picture of Jesus. They basically brought us to a school, the kids were in uniform. I'm pretty sure they returned the rice to the shop owner, or they brought it home for their own consumption.

As expected, after he got his pay day, Wanker 1 retreated into silent mode. When at Tonle Sap, be extra careful. Once you get on the boat and on the lake, you're at their mercy. If you asked me, I would recommend you skip Tonle Sap altogether. There is really nothing to see, a bunch of boat houses and polluted water. You would have more fun watching Kevin Costner in Waterworld.

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We fell for the scam as well! My group and I had it worse because some other boat stopped beside our boat and asked us if we wanted to take photos with their pet snake. We refused and they threw the snake into our boat. We were horrified and had to pay them to take the snake away.

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This scam needs to be shared more, so many people have fallen victim to the rice scam. Depending on who you're traveling with, you just don't have an option but to give in to the scam. Travel in a group if you can, if not, just be prepared to pay for the rice, in my case it was $50.

 

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When I did my trip to that part of the world I only stayed a night in Siem Reap. Only the Angkor temples are worth it. I did some research and saw some photos, no loss for not visiting Tonle Sap.

Edited by Rudi Thaddeus

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1 hour ago, Rudi Thaddeus said:

When I did my trip to that part of the world I only stayed a night in Siem Reap. Only the Angkor temples are worth it. I did some research and saw some photos, no loss for not visiting Tonle Sap.

I skipped Tonle Sap too. Read about how the kids and wild life are being exploited. Just by looking at the photos is enough, I don't think you can get much more by physically being there.

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On 4/17/2018 at 8:51 PM, Lucy Rayner said:

I skipped Tonle Sap too. Read about how the kids and wild life are being exploited. Just by looking at the photos is enough, I don't think you can get much more by physically being there.

You're right @Lucy Rayner, there is actually nothing to see there. If the water was cleaning you could maybe see some marine life?

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When I travel to Siem Reap, I will be going for this tour for sure. I just want to see if Wanker 1 and 2 if there are still there! I'm guessing it's easier for me to find the shop than the guide. I wonder if I can Waze myself to his shop?

On 4/17/2018 at 7:30 PM, Corynn Ethan said:

We fell for the scam as well! My group and I had it worse because some other boat stopped beside our boat and asked us if we wanted to take photos with their pet snake. We refused and they threw the snake into our boat. We were horrified and had to pay them to take the snake away.

They would not do that to me. If they threw a snake at me, they would have to risk me making a meal out of it.

Edited by Ken Chen

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Thanks for this warning, I dodged a bullet. If you've been to Vietnam they have something similar where the navigator of the boat asks for tips and if you don't give him any tips, he gets really nasty with words.

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