MEKONG BOAT TRIPS OUT OF OSVAY COMMUNITY BASED ECOTOURISM
By Female Savvy Traveller
The Mekong river is the world’s twelfth longest river and the seventh longest in Asia. Its and flows through six countries in South East Asia and is estimated to be 4,350 km (2,703 mi) long.
I have been living in Cambodia for the past 4 years, and even though I travel a lot for both work and for pleasure, up until 3 weeks ago I had never visited a community run tourism project on the Mekong River. So, that being said, I and a friend of mine decided to spend the following weekend at the Osvay Community Based Ecotourism.
After navigating the many different transport options to get to the project, we arrived on Friday afternoon around 5 pm. As we hadn’t booked our accommodation beforehand, we were placed in the homestay in the centre of the village. Next time I would definitely book as this gives you better options. To be honest it is more a homestay-style guest house, with meals being served in the only locally run “restaurant”. Once we arrived at the homestay, we immediately packed a few essentials and took off outside as we wanted to take photos of the sunset. AMAZING! I would totally recommend this as one of the best parts of the trip, the sun sets on the opposite bank of the Mekong river so you can take some pretty spectacular sunset pictures. If you are lucky, there might be some local fisherman on the river collecting their daily catch to add a point of interest to your photos. The one fisherman who we saw was super friendly, and even with almost no Khmer we managed to explain to him that we would love to take photos of him and his boat, so he stopped his engine to pose for us.
As with most rural communities in Cambodia, people go to bed early, so there is no evening entertainment, which means the even when you stay in the centre of the village it is totally silent after 9pm. So, bring books or a podcast to listen to in the evenings.
The following morning we tried to explore the village. In honesty, there is not very much to see. Osvay village is not very large and it functions mostly as a base to explore the Mekong river and many of the inhabited islands. It has several local shops mostly offering your basic supplies, fruits and snacks. The local restaurant provides several options for meals.
The main draw for us to visit Osvay Community Based Ecotourism was the easy access to Mekong river and the possibility to explore all it has to offer. The Mekong river boat trip is must when you visit. When we tried to book on the day, there were lots of negotiations, and we had to wait for an hour and a half before they found a boat that was available to take us. In hindsight, pre-booking would have been a better idea. When you pre-book the boat will be ready, no waiting. The project actually has an easy to use price list, with clear up-front pricing, which makes it easy to choose without the hassle of having to negotiate the price. You are also feeling that you are getting a good deal, instead of many places in Cambodia where you feel like you are being charged double just because you come from Europe or America. I really would recommend that you pre-book your trip here. When you pre-book the boat will be ready and waiting.
On our tour of the Mekong, my friend and I visited the flooded forest and travelled all the way to Preah Rumkel Ecotourism project and back. Our boat driver did not speak any English, but with some pointing and hand gestures, he understood that we wanted to take lots of photos along the way. He was extremally helpful, stopping for us to capture the sights whenever needed, sometimes even suggesting places along the way where we should stop to take photos… obviously, he has done this trip before and knew the perfect places for our snaps. Over lunchtime the sun was too bright – not perfect for taking photos, so we just enjoyed the adventure but on our way back we took some really great photos – it is worthwhile spending some more time in the flooded forest to get photos of the trees from different angles. Also if you have a very good zoom on your camera you will be able to take photos of the birds and wildlife you will see during your boat trip. Sadly our camera was not the best. It is beautifully relaxing to float slowly on the river, and just enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Truly a unique experience.
We visited in April, in the end of the dry season, when the river is at its lowest but even at this time of the year you can see the power of the Mekong – one of the most majestic rivers in the world. While taking this boat trip, you can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to be one of the first European explorers visiting Cambodia for the first time; experiencing the magic of the Mekong on a steamboat.
After our boat trip, we walked back to our homestay through the village. Children and animals wander the streets here so there are lots of smiles and “hello’s” among the way. As we were walking through one of the little streets, one older man in what must have been his 70’s approached us and invited us into his home. We all been told by our mothers never to go with strangers, but this almost fragile old man made us feel welcome so we decided to walk with him a short distance to his house.
His house backs onto the Mekong river, and he and his wife have a small farm holding with fruit trees, bananas and coconut palms. The couple welcomed us in their home, and we all tried to have broken conversations between the four of us with bits of Khmer (Cambodian language), English and lots of hand signs. This random encounter was weird and magic at the same time, meeting total strangers, struggling to communicate across language barriers but connecting as human-beings and finding the humanity in the middle of rural Cambodia.
After such a lovely day, we slipped into a deep sleep at our homestay without the usual distractions of traffic, loud music and all the hustle and bustle of the big city that I am normally used to. Since we were leaving Osvay Community Based Ecotourism at mid-morning the following day, we decided to get up early to see the sunrise. We were not disappointed as the early mornings at the Mekong are truly magical; total stillness with only birds for a company we watched the sun coming up across the land, slowly lighting up the village and the beautiful landscape of the Osvay community.
Not long after it was a time to go. We could have definitely stayed longer, and I would have loved to have more time to explore the Mekong river south of Osvay village. As we are lucky enough to live in Cambodia semi-permanently, we will definitely be back. I cannot believe that it has taken me 3 years to make this trip, but now there is no stopping me from coming back again soon. Next time I’m hoping to come during the rainy season, yes it will be muddy and wet, but I am longing to see this place in the lush green of the local vegetation after one of the typical rainy season showers. There is a lot more to see, a lot more to photograph, and more adventures to have.