Excursions into nature are an enjoyable way to relax for many people. Some choose to enjoy the dense forest or to climb mountains, while others enjoy the beach or the rice fields.

One woman told The Post how she likes to relax while taking the waterway transportation service, commonly referred to as the “taxi boats” or “water taxis”, that runs between the capital’s Russey Keo district and Takhmao town.

Taking a selfie on the bow of a water taxi with a bright smile, Sorn Sitha, a 50-something woman from Krol Ko village, Kilometre 6 commune, Russey Keo, explained that she chose to ride the taxi boats, as she enjoyed the breeze on the river and the beautiful scenery.

“When I get on the boat, I feel comfortable. I feel relaxed and enjoy watching the scenes along the river. I can see the new hotels and skyscrapers going up, which shows the progress of the Kingdom, and this makes me happy,” she said.

She said that she enjoyed the fresh cool air and found it much more pleasant than the artificial air conditioning that you got in a bus. She also suffered from motion sickness when travelling by road.

“I tell everyone – if you want to go to Takhmao, taking the boat is the best way. It is cool and relaxing, and you will see the skyline of the city and plenty of natural beauty. It is perfectly safe, as the crew is well trained. There are also life jackets, just in case the worst occurs,” she said.

She said as she has gotten older she has changed the way she looks at the world. When she was young, she took her health for granted. Now that she is older, she doesn’t sleep as well as she used to, and worried that sitting in her home just thinking about the past would be poor for her mental health. This was why she liked to ride the taxi boat occasionally, or go for walks in some of Phnom Penh’s lovely green garden spaces.

“Every week or two, I take a relaxing journey on the boat. If people just stay in their home all day, it can lead to depression. Poor mental health can lead to serious problems – and the deterioration of our physical health. This is why I like to take the time to get out and see the city,” she said.

Sitting and gazing at the riverbank, Sok Heng, a 30-something from Russey Keo, said he was on his way to Takhmao to relax after work.

He said that the roads between the two were very busy, and he found the congestion frustrating. He preferred to take the boat, he said, because he didn’t have to worry about traffic jams, and he really enjoyed the natural breeze.

“Taking the water taxi leaves me feeling refreshed. The crews who work on these vessels are very friendly, the service is fast, and the tickets are cheap. I often ride the boat to get away from work,” he added.

Passengers on a waterway transportation service on July 12. ORM BUNTHOEURN

Sitting not far from him, Nil Sarom, a resident of Bak Touk village, Toul Sangke 1 commune, Russey Keo district, told The Post that he had decided to take the boat so he could admire the scenery along the river. He also enjoyed watching the changing skyline of Phnom Penh with its many beautiful buildings.

“I wanted to relax and enjoy the scenery, see Koh Pich and get to know the bridges and high-rise buildings of the city. I am also curious to see the newer buildings that are going up along the river. I can do all that while enjoying a fresh cool river breeze, so who wouldn’t want to take the water taxi?” he said.

He also expressed his gratitude to the country’s leaders for setting up the service. He said it was a great boon to people’s travel options.

Ros Senghay, a 68-year-old mariner, said he had been with the service for more than four years, and noted that the vessel was running smoothly without any problem. The boats are limited to 20kmh, as any faster than this would produce a large wake which could be dangerous to smaller vessels on the Bassac River.

Voeun Panha, deputy director of the service, said they closed down for 1 year and 8 months during the Covid-19 pandemic, but reopened in November last year.

He said that when they reopened, the number of passengers decreased, possibly due to health concerns.

“Except for Saturdays and Sundays, there are usually only 50 to 100 people a day. On weekends, this increases to as many as 200 passengers, he added.

Panha said that there were originally four water taxis in service, but that the reduction in passenger numbers meant that they were currently employing just two. If passenger numbers returned to pre-pandemic levels, more vessels would be added. He said the water taxis were very affordable, that there were no traffic jams or accidents, and that there were well trained staff on hand at all times.

“For the safety of our passengers, we have hand sanitizers and facemasks, as well as lifejackets. Our crew are all accomplished swimmers and we adhere to the three do’s and don’ts of Covid-19 precautions, so our passengers are in capable hands,” he said.

He added that passengers could travel between any of the five destinations with no concerns about traffic jams. Each vessel had a crew of five, and could carry up to 60 passengers.

The water taxi from Russey Keo Station to Takhmao City Station costs 2,000 riel per ticket. It is free of charge for monks, the disabled, students, the elderly (70 years and above), children under 1 metre tall, factory workers, teachers, athletes.

It takes one hour to travel the 20 km length of the route and berths at Russey Keo, the Old Market, Chaktomuk, Chbar Ampov and Takhmao.