If you wish to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh and venture into a world of peace and tranquility, then a visit to Mekong Island about 15km north of the city centre will be just right for you.Bounded by views of rice paddies, vegetable farms and fruit orchards, Mekong Island not only serves as a venue for an enjoyable daytrip or picnic but also enables you to experience the country’s authentic culture at its best.
This island occupies an area of about ten hectares of land and is one of the prominent centres of traditional handicrafts in Cambodia, with artisans engaged in silk weaving, pottery, woodcarving and dyeing in its villages.
Perhaps the key highlight of Mekong Island is its cohesive village communities that represent the rural ethnicity of this country. In other words, the island stands out for its unspoiled surroundings, where houses are erected on stilts and people lead a simple lifestyle while earning their livelihood primarily from agriculture, fishing and silk weaving.
One of the not-to-miss communes of the island is Koh Dach, sometimes dubbed as the country’s silk weaving centre, as there are thousands of silk weavers producing quality silk under their stilted houses’ dappled space. For a fun experience, be sure to try to weave silk on spinning wheels made using bicycle parts, in addition to buying silk fabric directly from producers.
Besides silk, Koh Dach is known for its fresh crops and fruit produce such as beans, corn, bananas and sesame. Koh Dach is also home to pagodas including Ampor Phal, Kra Pumpich and Sa Maki Kbal Koh. Another activity that you can enjoy here, especially during summer, is swimming at the beach at the northern part of the island. Lined with thatched picnic huts and food stalls, this beach also provides a perfect backdrop for a cool, memorable day out.
Likewise, if you are on the lookout for something refreshing during your trip to Mekong Island, then a bike ride through the beautiful orchards and quaint farmland is highly recommended. Above all, a tour to Mekong Island is incomplete without enjoying its sunset views. Specialized boat cruises are available to take in the sweeping vistas of the sunset at the convergence of three rivers – the Mekong, the Tonle Basac and the Tonle Sap.
How to get there: One of the best ways to access Mekong Island is to take a cruise boat from Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh. It usually takes 2.5 hours per round trip, and the cruise will include visiting the handicraft centre at Koh Dach, sunset views and Khmer snacks. Alternatively, you can hire a tuk-tuk from the city to the Japanese Bridge, from where you can continue your journey to the island by ferry.