Just a short bike, boat or moto ride away from the hurly-burley of Phnom Penh, Silk Island offers a peaceful, pastoral respite, and the chance to pick up some choice silks and cottons.
Silk Island is home to a silk weaving village and silk centre, where you can see how the whole silk production process works from beginning to end, from mulberry-chomping silk worms in golden cocoons through to the complex manual loom weaving process, which requires a dexterity and memory that would be the envy of many (they seem to have left out the boiling alive bit though…)
The main silk weaving centre is just a kilometre away from the ferry drop off point, and is home to a collection of beautifully constructed houses under which weavers patiently weave at their looms, turning out simple but finely crafted silks scarves and skirts.
There is a small shop at the end of the row of houses where you can buy the silk scarves and skirts, as well as cotton scarves and kramas, which are also woven here.
The tour itself doesn’t take particularly long. If you fancy a bit of a break though, you could do a lot worse than head down to the nearby beach and either chill at a bench with a cool drink, or take one of the huts for $4 or $5, to tuck into a picnic. There is a small shop at the the top of the access which sells drinks and snacks.
Outside of the silk centre, there is also a very picturesque silk weaving village. Coming out of the silk centre, turn right to go back towards the ferry, and then take the first left to follow the road on a long arc around which takes you past typical Cambodian wooden houses in some of which looms are set up; you can step in to watch the process and buy their wares. Prices will vary, and be prepared to bargain. Signs outside will indicate which houses are weaving houses.
If you continue along through the village, you’ll come to Koh Dach Pagoda, one of the loveliest we’ve seen in bright yellow, which is simply perfect against a blue sky. They keep some of the island’s Water Festival boats here (the longer, older ones are no longer used, however). They look so precarious, it’s hard to imagine that more than 1,000 years ago they were originally designed for battle. From here, you can continue along in a circle to bring you back to the bridge and the ferry.
To get to Silk Island, you can either book a boat from just above Titanic Restaurant on the riverside. It should cost about $10 per person. Plenty of tour operators also organise boat tours to here. You could also take a tuk tuk out. If you’re hiring it for the day, expect to pay the driver $15 to $20. Or you could cycle out, which we thoroughly recommend — take a cycling tour if you’re not up to doing it alone.
There is a route that avoids much of the traffic of Route 6 if you cross over the Japanese Bridge — which will certainly get your heart pumping — and go all the way around the roundabout on the other side of the bridge so that you come back in the same direction you came from only under the bridge rather than over it. You’ll find yourself immediately on a dirt road which takes you straight to the river, and then turns north.
Follow the dirt road along the river for four kilometres, when it turns inland a little. Continue on the same road until you get to a T-junction, then take the right turn which will lead you directly to Route 6 (there is a petrol station on the corner). Here, you’ll cut a short diagonal to the right (as though back towards Phnom Penh) across the dual carriageway, which will take you to a side road to the left. Take the side road and turn right at the T-junction so that you are now following the road with the river on your left hand side. Continue for 1.5 kilometres, passing through the grounds of a pagoda, and the ferry crossing is just on the other side.
If you’re on a bicycle, they’ll charge you 700 riel per person to cross, or 1,000 riel on a moto. If you’ve hired a tuk tuk the charge is 3,000 riel. The short crossing brings you to the south side of Koh Dach. From there, simply follow the road away from the dock, take the first right, cross the iron bridge, then take the first left. Continue along here for just one kilometre, and the Silk Centre is there on your left. From Street 108, the whole journey is just over 14 kilometres.
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 30th November, 2015.