After 5 fabulous days in Siem Reap it was time to move on. We were headed towards Laos border but we really wanted to avoid going back to Phnom Penh. In this case we decided on taking a rather long journey (more than 10h and a change of buses) to Kratie
in the north-east of Cambodia. So far we have been really enjoying this country a lot (with an exception of few minor incidents with Tuk-Tuk drivers) and judging by what we had read about Kratie, we were more than confident that our next destination would be equally good or even better.
We arrived in town just in time for a beautiful sunset over Mekong. Kratie is a very small town so our walk from a bus stop to a hotel took us maybe 2 min. We opted for a little bit more expensive Heng Heng hotel (as for Kratie standards) rather than guesthouse to enjoy riverside location and fabulous views from our balcony (still only 7$ per room en-suite, guesthouse rooms start from 3$). To be honest it was also because of all the food stalls located just opposite of the hotel ;-) We headed to a firstly seen 'plastic
chair restaurant' (as well call it ), our favourite type of place and we settled over delicious curry and beer. Surprisingly just when we finished dinner massive storm broke down and it was raining for the whole night. Another weird weather occurrence in a dry season. We did not really know what to do in Kratie but that was exactly the point. We loved this place for its small scale, nice colonial architecture and village type feel. Also when number of foreigners is concerned, there was very few of us in town :-) People we met on our way did not bother to stop in Kratie on the way to Laos or northern Ratanakiri province. Good for us, bad for them as they missed a lot!!!
When having breakfast we were given maps of a neighbourhood and Mekong Trail tours. As usual we did not want to go for an organised tour so we rented bikes (1$ each, but make sure you go to the bike store as hotels rent them for 2$) and we just cycled ahead. Our aim for a day was to get to Kampi village
where freshwater irrawaddy dolphins live. It is a very scenic
15 km journey (part of the Mekong Discovery Trail
) and we stopped few times on the way to watch people, get some snacks etc. In order to see dolphins we had to take a boat (9$ each for 2 people, 7$ each for 3 and above) which is provided by a local conservation project. All the money from your tour goes to providing great living environment for Mekong Dolphins
as in some places they are near to extinction. Apparently boat engines mess up with their communication system as well as with their brains and make them die. It was not a cheap ride but at least for a good cause. Also it was totally amazing to watch them swim and play in their natural environment. They have to get to the surface to get air every now and then so you can be sure to see them. We saw whole groups of them appearing in the same time, exhaling loudly just maybe a meter away from us. However it was very difficult to get any decent photo of these moments as they would just emerged from nowhere on either side of a boat. We absolutely loved this experience and we
have been telling everybody we met about it ever since.
Kampi is also locally known for its rapids and many people come to this place for some shade and cooling down in the river. We were not prepared to swim and they wanted another entrance ticket from us so we did not check it out in the end. Sometimes when you are on a tight budget you have to give up some things, even if it is just a dollar or two;-( Cycling back was even nicer as it was already coming to a sunset and afternoon light made everything look softer. Temples on the way looked amazingly golden, fishermen were making their way home on the glittering water of Mekong and villagers started to come out from their houses as temperature went down a little. We stopped few times again to try some fruit and bamboo rice (local delicacy) and then headed to our hotel for a yet another great sunset over the Mekong. All day was so calm and chilled out that we felt more relaxed than ever.
One thing I forgot to mention about Kratie was that they have amazing evening food market just on
similar to the Chinese but different...
the main street by the river where you can choose your dishes from aluminium pots and then sit down on a riverside bench and enjoy;-) We met English woman who has been living in Kratie for some time, working as a teacher (her husband works for WWF hence their time in Kratie) and she showed us which stall offered the best and the safest food. It was not only great, home made food but also very very cheap. For two different dishes plus rice we paid 1$ - that is all;-) When you combine it with some barbecued chicken the whole meal cost you maybe 2-2,5$ for two;-) There is more to do in Kratie as you can follow endless possibilities of Mekong Trail but we just did a little bit more of cycling and then relaxed even more. It seemed to have become our habit here in Cambodia .... well as I said before it is all about enjoying the trip, isn't it?
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