After our day riding around the ruins we felt we still hadn’t gotten enough time on the bike, so we headed out to a silk farm 9 miles out of town. It was nice ride with many locals waving and looking at us funny as we are pretty sure most tourists don’t bike on this road. We became interested in visiting a silk farm after watching a Frontline special on Cambodian silk making, a tradition that nearly died with the Khmer Rouge. Luckily this art form has made a come back and it was interesting to go and see it first hand. We pulled up to the entrance of the National Silk Center and were immediately greeted by the man who would be our guide for the next hour. We were taken through the whole process from growing the mulberry trees that feed the silk worms to the weaving of the final product. We even were given the chance to eat a silkworm (after being boilded) and we took it. Kind of tasted like boiled peanuts (this is a southern treat).
The tour gave us a great appreciation for the work and skill that is needed to create every piece. A more complicated scarf with a design can take up to 4 weeks to complete from beginning to end. We also learned that many of the “silk” pieces seen in the local markets are imported and often are only 50% silk mixed with other fabrics. The average tourist wouldn’t have ever noticed but going into the shop at the end of tour we could definitely tell a difference from what we had seen on the streets. We were able to pick up one of the less expensive pieces which will hang on our wall at home.
If you are interested in viewing a little bit more about the process checkout the Frontline special called “Cambodia: The Silk Grandmothers”.