A friend who had previously visited Phnom Penh had highly recommended taking a sunset cruise on the Tonle sap and as I didn’t fancy hitting up another bar on my own now that the girls had left for Singapore I thought this would be a great way to spend my last night in Phnom Penh. There are numerous tour companies that offer this but as I had left it pretty late to organize I asked the concierge at Raffles to organize something for me and they arranged for a tuk tuk to pick me up just before 5pm to take me to the quayside in time for sunset.
It was a little bit hairy actually getting onto the boat as I had to walk across a plank of wood about the length of a standard ladder which connected the “dock” to the boat but once safely onboard, I settled into a comfy seat on the top deck and cracked open one of my complimentary beers, relaxed and got ready to enjoy the tour.
I hadn’t quite realized that I’d actually booked a private tour but at $30 for an hour (as opposed to $15 per person as part of a group) I certainly wasn’t going to complain. The Tonle sap actually converges with the Mekong at Phnom Penh and the boat tours take you down the Tonle Sap so you can watch the sunset over the Royal palace before turning off into the Mekong itself before heading back to shore.
The Mekong boasts the most concentrated biodiversity per hectare of any river (so wikipedia tells me) and is home to everything from giant freshwater stingray and giant catfish (which can grow up to almost 10 feet long!!) as well as things like frogs, snakes, snails and crabs.
It is estimated that between 47 % and 80% of the protein consumed by people living in rural communities in the Mekong basin comes from the river itself – unsurprising when you consider the prominence of the seafood sellers in the local wet markets we visited and the vast array of produce on offer.
I must say a big thank you to my friends Matthew and Laura for recommending I did this – you can see how beautiful it was watching the sunset over the Grand Palace from my pictures below and I must confess that having a private boat made me feel like a supermodel or a Russian oligarch, however briefly and it was an experience I will not forget in a hurry!
You can read about my boat trip at the other end of the Tonle Sap in Siem Reap here https://beirutibrit.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/taking-a-trip-on-the-tonle-sap-asias-largest-fresh-water-lake-cambodia/