Phnom Penh – Riches of the Mekong #6

Phnom Penh means different things to different people. On AmaWaterways Riches of the Mekong, Phnom Penh means the hustle and bustle of a big city, great food and a reminders of the Vietnam war.  This post is one in a series about our river cruise trip with AmaWaterways.  Our last post, All aboard discussed our trip from Siem Reap and our first day on the ship, the AmaDara.

What is your name?

But before we get to Phnom Penh, we make a stop along the river.  The Oknha Tey Silk Village is located on a large island (7000 inhabitants) in the middle of the Mekong river.    Our ship docks, we walk up a steep incline (remember this is near the end of the dry season so the river is very low) and we walk into a monastery.

Cambodian school children

They didn’t smile here but they were all smiles when singing and talking to us

We visit a local school before we get to the Silk Village.  Schools are generally located near monasteries since for years (centuries) only monks were educated.  The school children are 10- 12 years old and of course adorable.  They sing us songs and we each get to meet and talk with them to practice English.  Once we get past what they have learned “What is your name?, How old are you?  How do you like your trip?” the English is sparse.   But it’s still fun to communicate with them.

In another reminder of the war torn past, we learn that the school master got his job because when he came back to his village, he was the most educated person there.  He has an 11th grade education – all 6 of his brothers were killed in the holocaust.

Silky smooth

Outside Phnom Penh, this village produces hand made silk scarfs

Making Silk, Oknhatey Village Cambodia

After a short tuk tuk ride, we arrive at a silk factory.  We saw the whole silk making process from worm to cocoon to threading to weaving.  Very nicely done and of course it finished with a visit to the shop.  Judging from the number of bags passengers were carrying back to the ship, the silk factory made out very nicely.  The silk scarves were all hand made and between $10 and $15 – a real bargain.

Afternoon delights

After lunch we ventured into Phnom Penh via Tuk Tuks.  The drivers did a tour of the city.  But between the choking traffic, the concerns about shoplifters (it seemed we were perpetually warned about people ripping off watches directly from your hands) and the fact that the tuk tuks were covered such there was no visibility above 4 ft off the ground, the excursion wasn’t very helpful. Also, it wasn’t narrated so we really didn’t know what we were seeing.

Congestion on the streets of Phnom Penh

Riding through Phnom Penh via Tuk Tuk

The monument to King Sianouk stands in Central Park Phnom Penh

The monument to King Shianouk in Phnom Penh

We stopped at Central Park and saw some monuments and learned about King Shianouk (or Prince or prime minister) – which was interesting.  Then, rather than going back to the ship we opted to go to the Central Market.

Driving in Phnom Penh is chaotic and clearly not good for your health – both in terms of air quality and risk of accident. But we made it to the market in good time.  We were expecting the worst – crowds full of shoplifters, aggressive vendors and made in China products.  Instead we found a huge array of stalls, relatively open hallways and vendors that were happy to serve.

We bought a couple of souvenirs, found our Tuk Tuk driver and went back to the ship.

The forecast:  hot and humid

It’s hard to over exaggerate how hot it feels here.  Temperatures are mid 90’s with stifleing humidity.  Locals all seem to wear long sleeves and pants, interesting enough.  Actually those on scooters wear light jackets.  For us North Americans, the heat just zaps the energy out of you.  AmaWaterways has been very good with encouraging water consumption and also very good about providing hands wipes after every excursion.  Third world countries, as we’ve been reminded, are worried about survival and cleanliness is a secondary concern.

Phnom Penh by boat

After showering off, we watch young Khmer dancers perform some traditional dance on board the AmaDara.  Similar to Vietnamese dancers but there’s even more Indian influence here. The kids (10 – 18 years of age) seem to be having a good time – and it shows.

Another great dinner (Cambodian fish steamed in banana leaf) followed by lots of good conversation, brings us to the end of the day.  Some passengers went into the Phnom Penh for dinner or drinks.  Since we over night here, that’s easy to do.  We’re thinking about going out tomorrow night.

Looking ahead for tomorrow – we tour the killing fields from the Khmer Rouge.


Interested in this blog?  There’s plenty more – just jump over to the main blog page and pick a category from the menu on the side.  And check out our home page for special trips in the future.

Here’s some more  pictures from the day:

Central Market Phnom Penh Cambodia as seen on our AmaWaterways Riches of the Mekong river cruise

Central Market Phnom Penh

Cambodian school outside of Phnom Penh

That’s Robert on the right at the school we visited

Central Market Phnom Penh Cambodia on AmaWaterways Riches of the Mekong river cruise

This is who we bought some tee shirts from in Phnom Penh

These young Cambodians performed traditional dances while we over nighted in Phnom Penh

Traditional Cambodian dance on the AmaDara

Susan Wolfson
My goal is to Make Your Next Vacation Your Best Vacation!®