Everyone around you may say that slacking around is not ideal for your health and you should get physical, even on weekends, to live a long, healthy life. But, what’s so good about a long life if you keep living by the rules all the time? Let’s be honest; everybody needs to unwind with a ‘cheat day’, after a week of back-breaking work, by indulging in sinful food which in this case includes crickets and red ants! For a wonderful break, Taing Rinith recommends Koh Prak, an isle not far from Phnom Penh.
ONE of the most popular jaunts for stressed out Phnom Penh residents is Kien Svay resort, comprising small shacks on stilts in the river. However, since everyone knows it, the place is usually very crowded over the weekend or on a holiday. A person who prefers serenity would find it hard to enjoy yourself with all that noise. But, to let you in on a little secret, there is a far better place hidden nearby, a small island just across the river: Koh Prak (trans: Silver Island).
To reach Silver Island, go on National Road Number 1 and cross Cbar Ampov Bridge into Kandal Provine. Just near the Phnom Penh- Kandal border, you will arrive at Kien Svay Resort located on a bank of Mekong River, but that is not the destination. From there, head east and cross a steel bridge to reach Koh Prak.
From the bridge, don’t forget to pause for a few minutes to look at the fine surrounding view: an ecosystem that resulted from the combination of a long, calm river, tree and marine plants with traditional wooden houses and fishing boats. The air is fresh, and the bridge is a great spot for fishing and maybe flying a kite.
Once you reach the end of the steel bridge, turn right on the dirt road to an area known as Ma’om Village. In this area, there are several resorts run by the villagers from their homes located on the bank of the river.
At any one of them, you can enjoy the day dining on tranquil waters among the floating shacks. From here, a picturesque view are the blue skies and a lake filled with floating green water lilies. The hammocks are an extra pleasant experience, especially when casting a fishing rod.
The rent for a floating shack ranges from 10,000 riel ($2.5) to 20,000 riels ($5). Yet, the people who run the resort are more than happy to let you stay for free if you order food and drinks from them!
For $10, you may get a whole grilled chicken (cooked with a can of Coca-Cola) or a big grilled freshwater fish with mango sauce and a Khmer herb soup. But, the best option for your meal, if you prefer being active for a bit, is to go shop for food at a local market. Why? Because you can take a wooden boat there, which is another enjoyable experience.
A round boat trip between your shacks to the market costs around 5,000 riel. Apart from the joy of a slow cruise on the river, you can taste a variety of country food sold by vendors in the market, from skewered chicken meat and organic vegetable to freshwater roasted prawns and snakeheads. Now for the adventurous eater.
Some of the delicacies, like fried crickets, fried pupae and grilled frogs, may not sound exactly appetizing for the normal city sod but they really are the sworn favourites of many Cambodians.
And talking about last night’s restful sleep to the sounds of chirpy crickets, now eat it: with potato chip crunchiness, the fried crickets on sale are savoury and spicy, and the kaffir leaves provide a soothing balance.
To be more adventurous, the pupae (of silk worms) have great texture and the frogs taste similar to chicken meat but more tender. Better to taste ’em before they disappear from the planet eco-system, or is that why …
Back in your idyllic shack, feast on fresh meat and chat with your buddies over drinks in a peaceful and quiet atmosphere. This weekend should be enough to take away all your ‘sighs’ and return to the city rejuvenated for another round of ‘sigh’, madness.