I arrived in Kratie (pronounced Kracheh) on Friday, 31st January, in the mid-afternoon and checked into the Riverside Hotel (which, strangely, is on the river) for $7 per night. I was on the first floor and there are doors on both sides of the corridor; not unusual one would say. However, the doors on one side lead to rooms whilst the other side lead directly to…the outside! Yes, it looks as if the builders ran out of money, or allowed for future expansion, but, anyhow, if you try and go through those doors it’s a sharp drop into the hotel car park…quality Khmer construction.
1st February dawned, as many have, warm and bright and I decided to explore the area by bike before I was expecting some visitors; yes, Derek and Elaine, who I had met in Pursat, were due up from Kompong Cham. So, I set out on a fairly good bike ($1 for the day) and headed south along the main road for Wat Roka Kandal, which is the only example of this type of early Khmer pagoda. It was very small but wonderfully colourful inside but without a Buddha to be seen.
However, I also wanted to see the marquee that I spotted on the bus from Kompong Cham. There is only one main road in the area and a marquee had been erected on one lane on the road; it turned out to be a wedding marquee and the festivities were in full swing when I arrived. It was interesting to watch the cars, motorbikes, buses and trucks negotiate the blockage!
After visiting the Khmer Wat it was off to see the island of Koh Trong, a five minute ferry ride across the Mekong. Whilst nice, it wasn’t particularly exciting and is very small. Still, I did have a very nice but dangerous coconut juice; I managed to slash my finger open on the shell! It’s dangerous stuff, this tropical fruit.
On my return to the hotel it was good to see Derek and Elaine had arrived and also checked into the same hotel…drinking buddies at last! So, after a quick catch up it was back to the river and watch the beautiful sunset, with a couple of beers, of course.
On 2nd February I had arranged for a tuk-tuk to take us to the tourist spots around here and the first stop was the sticky rice village. The local snack is a combination of sticky rice and beans which is cooked and sold in bamboo canes, although “village” was a bit of a misnomer as it was basically a load of stalls alongside the road. Next stop was the monastery of Phnom Sombok, which has great views as it is on the summit of a hill, although the 384 steps up weren’t mentioned in LP!
After these side trips, it was off to see the main event…the very rare Irrawaddy freshwater dolphins. Boarding a boat from the rough and ready quay, where all of the sight-seeing boats leave, we were taken into the river and, after a little while, were watching two pods moving in the waters. It is believed that there are less than 100 of these in the Mekong, so it was fantastic to see these extremely rare mammals in the wild and close up.
We then persuaded our driver to venture up to the rapids, just a couple of kilometres north, and we were so glad we did. Whilst the rapids are nothing special, the area is a weekend relaxation pot for the Cambodians and it was interesting to see how they relaxed and also to partake of some of the cheap and very tasty street food available. There are several pontoons that stretch out into the river and you can relax there, on a hammock all day…for a price, of course!
On the way back to Kratie, our driver asked if he could stop for lunch and, as a result, we found ourselves having lunch with a Cambodian family in a Khmer house; that’s just something that money cannot buy. Part of the meal was sun-dried fish (like sardines) and shaved mango with chillies, which were both delicious.
On returning to Kratie, it was time to decide where my next stop would be and the choice was fairly simple…Ban Lung in northeast Cambodia or onward in Laos. After a wander around town and another sunset and beer time, I decided that Ban Lung would be the next stop, as it was quite a way off the beaten track and I have no idea if or when I will be back. So, the next part of the trip would begin tomorrow at 8.00am!