by: RJ Fisher last Update: January 2023
Silk Island, Phnom Penh is the perfect getaway to escape the city. Phnom Penh can be a hectic place. Sure, it’s nice to indulge in city pleasures every once in a while on your travels. However, if you live in Phnom Penh 24/7 like I did, there are times that the city can really get to you. Especially on one of those sweltering hot and dusty days it’s really refreshing to get out of the city and into nature if only for a few hours. So why not bicycle your way to Silk Island Phnom Penh?!
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Silk Island Phnom Penh
Silk Island, Phnom Penh (Koh Dach in Khmer) is a tiny 30km2 Island in the mighty Mekong river just before the confluence with the Tonle Sap river. The close proximity to the Cambodian capital makes Silk Island, Phnom Penh the perfect opportunity for a convenient half or whole day excursion.
The small Island derives its name from the traditional silk weaving that it is known for. Though currently in decline, it’s still practiced by a few families on almost antique looms under their houses. If you want to pick up an authentic Khmer krama (iconic checkered scarf) or sampot (sarong) to bring home, this is the place to get it.
How to get there
You can easily arrange a tuk-tuk in Phnom Penh for a half or whole day to venture out to the Island. Just bargain with one of the many tuk-tuks in the streets. Going rate is $15-$25 depending on your negotiation skills, add 1$ for the ferry. The tuk-tuk can take you around the Island, probably make a stop at a silk farm and one of the temples. If there’s time he can also point out a place for lunch. The only thing is that the tuk-tuk will have to stay on the paved roads.
If you like to be pampered, there’s a grand tour of all the Phnom Penh highlights featuring the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom, etc. This is a whole day tour and also includes a Mekong river cruise with a visit to Silk Island. Pick up from your hotel, English speaking guide for some great context, what more do you want? Might be a good idea if you just have one day in Phnom Penh and want to make the most of it.
Silk Island Phnom Penh bicycle tour
Another, more adventurous way is to join a bicycle tour. There are a few tour operators with bicycle tours to Silk Island, Phnom Penh. However, in my opinion they are all overpriced and the quality of the bicycles is not always up to par. The one positive exception used to be the tour from Grasshopper Adventures. I say, “used to be” since recently they have ceased their Silk Island tour, focusing only on multiple day Cambodia cycle tours.
Other tour operators charge from a whopping $50 p/person up to $140, which I think is way too much. Mind you, this is an activity easily organized by yourself for a fraction of those amounts. Nevertheless, if you feel more confident joining a bicycle tour, try the viator bicycle tour. They are well organized, offer the best price and include a lunch.
Bicycle to Silk Island Phnom Penh on your own
My advice is to just rent a bicycle and go it your own. Very conveniently rent your bicycle on Silk Island itself just off the ferry, there’s a map with the shop location in the link. The bike rental shop is inside the gas station about 150m from the ferry. They rent very sturdy bikes with smooth gears for $7. If you want to call them, add +855 to the phone number mentioned under the link if you’re calling from outside of Cambodia.
Next to the bicycle rental fee, your only other cost will be the tuk-tuk from the city to the ferry at Vearin Pagoda (max Khr.8000=$2 one-way) and the ferry itself (Khr.1000=$0.25 p/p one-way). Simply pay the ticket seller and proceed to board the ferry.
As an alternative, rent your bike in the city at the M-Bike shop behind the Royal palace (map with their location under the link). You can then cycle from the shop to the ferry (about 9km). Start at the river front, over the Japanese friendship bridge and follow Road 6 to the ferry at Vearin Pagoda. Make sure you’re back in time before the shop closes at 6pm.
And here we are, welcome to Silk Island, Phnom Penh!
Koh Oknha Tei
The ferry dropped you off at the Southern tip of Silk Island (Koh Dach). If you want to see more of the silk weaving then take the first right on the road leading away from the ferry. Cross the old metal bridge that leads to another tiny Island adjacent to Silk Island, that goes by the name “Koh Oknha Tei”. Just to let you in on a little secret, Koh Oknha Tei is actually the real Silk Island. Don’t let anyone know I told you.
There’s a small village where you can learn all about silk from silkworm breeding to weaving. But hey, I thought we came here to do some cycling so let’s skip the silk for now and start pedaling!
Find more tours in Phnom Penh
So, for now don’t cross the old metal bridge to Koh Oknha Tei and continue straight on the road leading away from the ferry with direction North. You could of course stay on this new concrete road that goes all the way up North. Do yourself a favor, you’re on an all-terrain bike after all. Challenge some of the unpaved roads that will take you a bit more inland and then return to the concrete road to continue your route.
If you’re up for it, you can even try some of the small dirt tracks as well. This way, you will fully experience the true Cambodian rural landscape. Immerse yourself in an abundance of green with rice paddies, corn fields and banana trees. On your way don’t miss the “Wat Krapum Pech” temple with an immense golden reclining Buddha statue and the gorgeous “Wat Sameakki Kbal Kaoh” temple.
Koh Dach Beach Resort
At the very Northern tip of the Island is “Koh Dach Beach Resort” where you can unwind in a hut overlooking the Mekong river. It’s just $1 to rent a hut or for free if you buy lunch there. The place is popular with locals and perfect to rest your legs halfway on your trip. You could of course stay to watch the sunset, but make sure you make it to the last ferry back to Phnom Penh at 8:30pm.
Next, pedal your way back to the Southern tip along the Western road of the Island. Enjoy the breeze and feast your eyes on a scenery of simple life in the countryside.
You will see buffaloes roaming about everywhere. Asian cows being herded by their owners and women picking fruit in their local attire. We also encountered some cute kids that curiously looked us over as if we were the weirdest persons they had ever come across. They were probably right.
What a great way to disconnect from the frantic city!
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Have you ever joined a bicycle tour on your travels? Leave us a comment below to tell us about your experience. We would love to hear from you.
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