SILK ISLAND, CAMBODIA
Phnom Penh Day Trip
Wat Khbai Koh on Silk Island
The official Cambodian name is Koh Dach, but it’s known to most as Silk Island. Located only 10 kilometers north of Central Phnom Penh, Silk Island sits in the middle of the Mekong River and seems to be worlds apart from the hectic pace of Cambodia’s nearby capital city. A visit to Silk Island is an easy and interesting day trip from the rather frenetic pace of life in Phnom Penh, offering travelers a chance to relax, recharge and get a sense of Cambodian life in the countryside.
Many travel companies organize group tour type day trips to Silk Island, Cambodia. But it’s easy to arrange the trip on your own. Doing so will allow you to wander at your own pace and explore areas which interest you.
Silk Island Is In the Mekong River North of Phnom Penh
An independent day trip to Silk Island starts by hiring a tuk tuk . Cambodian tuk tuks are rather unique with the driver piloting a motorcycle which pulls a two wheeled passenger carriage behind. The official Cambodian name for the vehicle is the French word “remorque” but everyone still calls them tuk tuks or tuks. You can engage a tuk and driver for the day trip for @ $15 to $20 – the price can vary – negotiate. If you don’t look like a tourist the price is cheaper. If you speak Khmer the price is better still. (good luck with that) Tuks are most expensive outside hotels. And again – negotiate the total price prior to departure. Sometimes its best to write the price down and confirm with your driver.
Typical Cambodian Tuk on Silk Island
Once aboard your own Tuk it’s a short, 10 minute ride north out of Phnom Penh to the Preak Leap ferry landing.
Location of Ferry Landings for Silk Island Ferry
As you get close to the landing the route wanders through small roads and back ally-like lanes. You may feel a bit like you are lost. But then you will arrive at the landing – which is just that – a flat spot on the river bank where the road runs to the water. No pier. It’s a bit rustic. The ferry heads into shore and drops a loading ramp for passengers and vehicles to board. Watch out for the motorcycles – Cambodia is full of them and they all seem to go full speed. The ferry ride is an interesting and short trip out to the island where you will scramble ashore on Silk Island. You may be asked to pay @ $1 for the trip or you might be asked to pay on return. It seems a bit unorganized. Follow the lead of your tuk driver.
Ferry from Silk Island offloading at Preak Leap Ferry Landing
Silk Island isn’t large – about 12 km long and 4 km wide. With your tuk tuk it is easy to explore the island from top to bottom. Along the way your driver will likely take you to a small development sometimes referred to as “Community Silk Island”. It’s a small community based space where for the entrance fee of $1 a personal guide will show you through the park like setting, explaining the stages of the process of silk production. It is really well done for a local project where you can actually see the mulberry bushes and leaves (food for the silk worms), the small and growing silk worms, worms spinning cocoons, and the various stages of preparing the cocoons, unwinding, and spinning the silk filaments from the cocoons. And of course, there is a small area where you can purchase a variety of silk items which were very nice and seemed to be priced more reasonably than in nearby Phnom Penh.
Young Silk Worms feasting on mulberry leaves
The small roads and lanes of the island run through small plots of farm land and pass by clumps and clusters of Cambodian homes. Each house is built on stilts as protection against occasional river flooding during the monsoon season. For most of the year the area beneath the home is used for other daily activities. Many on the island are involved with silk and textile production. The residents of Silk Island are friendly and open to visitors. Feel free to stop and say “hello.”
Silk Island stilt home
Artisan home with silk workshop underneath
You can stop by the homes of local artisans such as the one above. Most often they will gladly invite you in and show you their work.
Spinning Silk Thread
Home workshops, frequently located beneath the stilt house, are fairly basic. Hand operated spinning machines (often made out of bicycle parts) spin single fiber silk threads into stranger muli-fiber thread.
Small hand operated looms weave the silk threads into fabrics
A brief video of a silk workshop beneath one Silk Island home –
You never know what you might encounter or discover as you wander the lanes of Silk Island. It’s a very rural environment and very welcoming.
It’s a small island with little need for cars or trucks. Bicycles, motor cycles and tuk tuks are the most common forms of transport.
Silk Island Bicycle Rider
Silk Island Ride Sharing
Novice monks receiving alms outside an island home
Share the lane with local livestock
The small temple of Wat Khbai Koh is located near the center of the island.
Silk Island makes a lovely day trip from near-by Phomn Penh. Wandering the shaded lanes and exploring the countryside is a pleasant and relaxing break from the big city. The sites are intriguing, the people are open and friendly, and the silk gorgeous.
Explore Silk Island, Cambodia …………And Enjoy The Adventure!
Travel And Destination Photographs by B.W.Bean
© 2017, Bruce W Bean, Ph.D. All rights reserved.