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Published: February 11th 2017
Getting to Kratie left us feeling a bit grumpy and ripped off. Having crossed the border from Laos into Cambodia we were then herded onto a big bus. There wasn't enough room for all of the bags and rucksacks so some had to be on the bus itself. Before we left, our passports were handed back and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
An hour later we reached the town of Stum Treng from where we would be put on different minibuses depending on our final destinations. We were dropped off in a huge yard with no information about what would happen next. We were encouraged to order food but our sandwiches were not ready when our minibus arrived and wanted to go. The kitchen delivered something akin to a chicken sandwich just as the driver was getting agitated by our refusal to get on until we had some food. The minibus was full with everyone going either to Kratie, like us, or all the way to Phnom Penh. All was well as we set off.
About a kilometre down the road we stopped. Everyone had to get off and change onto a different minibus. 20 passengers were squeezed
into 16 seats and every inch of the floor was taken by baggage so there was nowhere to put your feet. We were lucky - at least we had backs on our seats. It was a pretty hellish ride and we were so happy to emerge unscathed two hours later. To our amazement, we were just round the corner from our hotel.
The Oudom Sambath was a nice enough hotel. With no lift, getting up to the top floor was good for our legs which had become so accustomed to cramped spaces. The views over the Mekong were great, but the sun didn't emerge until we were about to leave so we never really got to see it in all its glory.
The main reason for anyone to come to Kratie is to travel up to Kampi in the hope of seeing some of the rare and endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. It was a very dusty hour in a tuk tuk to get there and we were thankful it was overcast because that could have been a very hot journey too. We know we paid our driver over the odds but he earned his $10 with very careful driving.
Boat trips out to see the dolphins are centrally controlled and cost $9 per person for an hour. Our boatman struggled to get his engine started and we feared we would drift all the way back to Kratie!
He did get the engine started and he knew exactly where to go to find the dolphins. It is said that only 70 or 80 exist in this stretch of the Mekong all the way back to Laos. They were hard to spot at first but soon we were seeing dolphins to our left, to our right, and behind us too. Photographing them was another matter though! An hour didn't seem long and it flew by. In the wet season they are rather more elusive so the trips are extended to 90 minutes.
Back in Kratie we had a good look around the market. It's a very colourful place and good to see. The old colonial buildings are falling down though, and they made the whole place just feel a bit too tatty. There is potential for Kratie to develop into a nice riverside destination but for now, it's only worth a couple of nights. We were quite pleased to
head out on our way to the nation's capital.
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