Drivers waiting for new clients to arrive
When checking out, we meet our drivers from yesterday again at the counter. Today they have no work. This afternoon a fresh load of tourists arrives in Battambang, hopefully, that provides them some job the next day. Later in the day, back in Phnom Penh, we will also provide some work to a couple of drivers; they will transport us to Silk Island. We drive to the next hotel where a crowd of about 20 Cambodians boards. In our fully packed mini-van, we bump to the bus station where an AC bus is waiting.
No need for a tuk-tuk
Around half-past one, we arrive in Phnom Penh, somewhere near the central market, where everyone has to get off. The usual hassling occurs, motorcycle drivers jostle to offer a ride. However, I quickly approach a tuk-tuk driver. When asked where we should go, it appears that we are standing in front of the guesthouse of our choice already.
Planning our trip to the northeast of Cambodia
Tomorrow we want to leave for the northeast of Cambodia, so we inform about transport possibilities. The hostel staff advises inquiring further at the quay where the boats are leaving for Siem Reap and for Vietnam. A somewhat older motorcycle driver has been eyeing us for some time. Together with his companion, we drive to Sisowath Quay where we are told that there are currently no boats towards Kampong Cham; we better take a bus, and from there we can continue by boat to Kratie and Stung Treng.
Booking a flight to Ban Lung
That seems a rather complicated way of traveling, so my travel companion suggests we might better fly to Ban Lung to descend from there to Phnom Penh again. Our drivers bring us to a tour agency in a completely different corner of the city. Luck is on our side: tomorrow morning there is effectively a flight to Ban Lung, so we book immediately.
Taking a ferry to Koh Dach or Silk Island
As we still have a large part of the afternoon to spend, my companion proposes to go to Koh Dach, better known as Silk Island, known for its weaving villages. Silk Island is located 16 kilometers outside the city in the Mekong River. The trip to the ferry to transfer us takes longer than expected. Once at the quay we have to wait a while for the boat, as it is still moored on the other side. On Koh Dach, our drivers bring us to an improvised beach with a few bamboo huts on stilts in the water. But there is nothing worth staying here; the place is almost deserted, and nothing is happening at all.
Silk Island has mainly weaving villages on offer
Quite soon after our landing, a woman arrives on a bicycle. Out of breath, she begins to display her goods; cotton and silk cloths and scarves. There are a few nice ones on offer, so both of us buy a piece. Afterward, we visit a weaving village. We watch a young woman weaving, take some pictures and ask for some explanation of the process. I am convinced that our drivers are just improvising what places to show us here on Silk Island; a tour experience in high contrast with our guides from yesterday in Battambang.
Back to Phnom Penh in the dark
The sun is already sinking so we decide to leave Silk Island and return to the ferry where we experience the sunset. In the dark, we drive back to Phnom Penh. My driver does not see very well in the evening, there is no street lighting here, and there is oncoming traffic all the time. Regularly I notice his motorcycle slowing down as a car approaches from the opposite direction with its headlights on. I feel less comfortable with this, but all in all, we do make it back safe to the guesthouse. We do agree with our motorcycle to transport to the airport tomorrow morning so they can earn some more dollars.
When you order vodka, you must be Russian
For dinner, we go to a restaurant not far from our guesthouse. To conclude the evening, we both take another shot of spirits; my friend drinks Stolichnaya – Russian vodka, I take rum. When settling the bill, one of the team asks if we are Russians. My companion asks a question in Russian, and to our surprise, the staff answers the question. Not bad, but after all, the name of the restaurant is Phnom Kiev.