PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Stroll down the quiet Sangkat Koh Dach street on Silk Island and the gentle smell of ginger wafts through the air. Follow your nose and it will lead you to the Bonnivoit Garden Home Stay & Restaurant.
The cafe cum living area cum guest house is best described as green – trees, shrubbery, potted plants – with blue accents. A cyclo decorates the center of the courtyard.
It is a three-year-old family-run operation run by a husband and wife team with various progeny, aunts, uncles and cousins. Hammocks hang wherever. Kids play and chase each other. In true Cambodian style, the pace of the Bonnivoit Garden moves as it will.
A basket of cold towels – to wipe hands, face and the back of the neck – arrived and was a pleasant welcome on a hot sweaty day.
The next item of importance was drinks for rehydration. A coconut is a mere 50 cents, beer is $1.5, and a “different kind of fruit juice” is 75 cents.
That taken care of, it is time to move on to the food to share. The group – Brad the photographer, Karen the medical columnist, Phala the tuk-tuk driver and Vet a silk dealer we met on the ferry to the island – ordered a proverbial feast.
Fried grilled rice with pork or chicken ($3.5), fried vegetables with egg or chicken ($3.5) and fried fish with sweet and sour sauce ($4). Oh, and mustn’t forget the pineapple coconut milk sour soup with fish ($4).
Not being shy about dieting, we also got another hearty soup dish. The entire over-indulgent bill that left us slightly waddling came to $31.25.
As each dish arrived, it was set on an outside table so Brad could get up close and personal with his camera.
As he snapped away the family started to give us rather strange looks. Ah well, everyone knows that italics are a touch strange anyway, so it didn’t really matter.
After lunch it was time to go shopping. There is a cabinet in the center of the compound that sells silver crafts made by local women who can use the income: bracelets, necklaces, little jewelry boxes, serving spoons.
The bracelet that I bought for about $15 wasn’t pure silver, but for that price who cares? In West Africa they have a special metal called “Tuareg silver” – which is really silver plated nickel – and I suspect this may be the same. Great design and I’ve worn it a number of times.
When the family – thanks to Vet’s translating – realized that we were with it and not just whacko-tourists with a fetish for food photos they showed us around the guesthouse.
Upstairs there are rooms with two beds for $25 a night or single rooms at $15. Tours and guides are available. Or you can just rent a bike and explore the island on your own.
Silk Island is an ideal day trip away from the capital when you absolutely have to escape the exhaust fumes, the noise, and the construction dust and grime.
Once there, head for the Bonnivoit Garden and know you will get a good meal in a relaxing atmosphere.