A casual writer who is keen to share knowledge of living and working in South East Asia and loves exploring and writing about the gems that exist in the communities, arts and culture of Adelaide and towns and cities further afield.
Published April 10th 2014
Sunset on the Mekong River by boat - pure relaxation
If you've ever visited Phnom Penh, every evening you will have seen boats moving up and down the river hosting guests, parties, discos and the like. But have you ever wondered how you might do the same?
Well it's easy! All the boats and their owners now moor their boats in the section of the river bank north of the night market on Sisowath Quay. There is a paved area along the bank and you will find many owners promoting their particular boat, showing photos and negotiating a price.
All or most of the boats are wooden and privately owned and run. You will likely be talking to the wife, older daughter or son of the owner when inquiring.
The boats can handle different sized groups and most are designed so you can sit in the main part of the boat or on the roof for more breeze and better views. You will need to negotiate with the owner how long you want to go out for and how much it will cost. Ensure you negotiate this and agree on the time and cost before embarking and definitely before leaving the bank. Prices are generally between US$15 - US$20 per hour.
Where do they go? You can indicate your preferred route. The boats travel up and down both the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. If travelling in the day you can ask to take a stop at Silk Island, named for all the silk weaving that the locals produce on the island. The boat skipper will if asked stop to allow you to disembark and take a stroll along the Silk Island village roads where you will be able to see locals weaving and even purchase some direct if you wish.
You will see floating fisher villages, bank side homes, working ferries and riverside construction taking place. You will in addition get to see a unique aspect of Phnom Penh from the river side.
Phnom Penh at night from a hired river boat cruise
What to bring? The best approach when taking a boat trip is to consider it an outdoor picnic and take everything you need - drinks, nibbles, wine and cheese, whatever takes your fancy. Don't forget to include a bottle opener and/or cork screw, plastic cups if needed and I always include a sarong or table cloth for the table.
After your requested time of cruising the skipper will return you to where you embarked. If by chance you decide you want to stay out a little longer, tell the skipper as soon as you can in case he has another fare or so that he stays in the location you like before bringing the boat in at the end of the trip.
Parking is available near the pick up spot and will cost you approximately 50c. Tuk Tuks and moto taxis will also get you there are there are also always a few hanging around to take you home.
It really is a refreshing break from the busy Phnom Penh roads, the views are spectacular at any time but particularly at night, and its a great way to entertain guests or fellow travellers and generally chill out for an hour or two. Ask around when in Phnom Penh as people often have a preferred boat and owner and may well even have their number in their pocket.
Catch a sunset on the Mekong in this unique and special way and support the local boat owner families.