The next day we are off to Kratie on another mini bus, where I am currently blogging. This one has 4 motor bikes loaded on the back which is where our packs are also tied down. It looks like there will be more room for our feet this time for the 4 hour journey.
I was wrong, we’ve just arrived at the main bus stop where we pickup a collection of boxes, packages and other passengers. Okay there are 14 passenger seats and the driver crams in 18, two in the front seat designed for one, 4 into 3 on so on. Thankfully ourselves and a German couple are located in the seats we’ve paid the $7 for. Hey wait a minute we are stopping again, another two get on, this is getting interesting. The locals rearrange themselves expertly. In the front including the drive there are 4, then another who nestles herself on the rest next to the KP. Following a few more stops for juice & air we hit the road, finally on our way just one hour later than scheduled. Then 30 mins up the road we stop again, yes it’s another passenger.
The Cambodian’s may not all be able to read, but they are sure as fuck good at maths. They get 21 into 14 without any division required. The police at the numerous check points along the way obviously can’t count though :-), regardless we arrive safely, in this town on the Mekong river, known for the Irrawaddy dolphins.
The usual group of hoteliers are waiting, offering rooms and assistance about the town. When you want one, just like the police at home, there is not a Tuk-Tuk insight. So we take a gander, packed up, not ideal as it’s one in the afternoon and fucking roasting. We stumble across a guest house with rooms for $6, even tho’ we don’t want a room, just beer, food & the WiFi. They insist we see it, the KP takes a look, it’s more than acceptable but we are planning on staying a while so want a room on the river, the mighty Mekong, the twelfteenth longest (my school geography lets me down, I thought it was the 8th) river in the world. The town is on the east bank which means the sunset will be viewable if the room allows it. As the proprietor of the guest house continues to bang on about the room whilst we eat, we decide to rent a bike here. As usual this requires a passport as deposit, which he starts scrutinising like we are located at the Kazakh border. I ask what he’s doing? “Just checking sir, is problem, you have no free pages.” No Mr you are just being an awkward cunt! Fuck your room and your bike. We converse ourselves in Russian, taking the gamble he doesn’t understand, thankfully he doesn’t, we pay and leave. Turning left not right, which results in a much longer walk to the river, Doh! Nightmare it’s half 3 but still roasting. Then after quite a walk, out of the sunshine like a gift from above a Tuk-Tuk appears. Drive makes a quick one eighty and no more than 10 seconds later, we are at the hotel we were trying to locate. Sods law, that’s Murphs law if you’re Irish. We decide to use the wheels to check a guest house that’s supposedly good. Well The KP checks, she’s good aye, my Princess and Angel all in one. The room is too dark, plus without a river view. We head back to our first choice, the Oudom Sambath which gets the KP’s approval. She’s done well once more, we are on the top floor and the communal balcony area the biggest I’ve ever seen. It offers a vast panoramic of the river, with rear access for early birds to catch the rise of the sun also.
We settle down with the K7, tripod and obligatory beers. You can see the force of the river, even tho’ it’s only travelling steadily, gently even. I’m not sure you’d think that tho’ if you was in it overboard. The only other major river I’ve seen is the Danube. Having disco’d on it in quite a number of the capital cities it passes through. Bratislava, Slovakia was the most impressive I’ve seen, granted it was after the snow melt. It’s ferocious and to be fucking frank, crossing the gang plank to the botel was scary as fuck! If you fell in you’d be gone in the blink of an eye. Here the Mekong seems like it’s meandering, not that I’d fancy my chances of swimming to the other side. We are joined by an interesting Belgian guy, who informs us it’s not the other side at all but the island Koh Trong. Fuck me the river is actually wider than we thought! He also informs us that the town closes early. We shoot off to find a restaurant for food and drink followed by another early night, we got dolphins to catch, observe I meant, in the morning.
Unless you are crazy or a rabid dog. It’s not a good idea to operate between the hours of 12 and 3. Therefore early starts are a must, especially if you’re a ginger, or a kazakh who fears the sun like a vampire. So we’re up at 5:30, myself a bit earlier to get some shots from the the rear of the expansive balcony.
Following the local brekkie of noodle soup, we get a motor bike and head north along the river to Krampie, the best location on this stretch of the Mekong to see the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. This bike is much like the rest, the common feature, at least on the last three we’ve had, the speedo and clock are not working, most probably disconnected to protect resale value. This combined with us not being observant enough, results in us missing the 15km destination and travel at least twice as far as needed. It’s fun tho’ and we get to see small little villages with lots of happy kids all shouting hello, hello. Also see a bit of fishing going on local to a small sand bar.
We get to the Dolphins which are so rare, experts estimate their numbers to be less than 80. A treat to get to see them. These dolphins are not as active as those in the ocean. We have many sightings, but it reminds me more of a whale than a dolphin, slowly surfacing when it needs air. Their most active time though is early in the morning or late evening. Thanks to the speedo it’s mid day and we’ve missed that. Before we go back drive takes us to the large sand bar in the river, we disembark the long tail boat in the middle of the Mekong! Slighty surreal to be honest, reality is quickly brought to the forefront by how hot the fucking sand is.
It’s a very quiet town so once again we don’t do much in the evening apart from watching the sunset, we are going to visit the island in the Mekong in the morning. The KP’s only sun protective long sleeve shirt is in the laundry, and she’s threatening to not go in the morning. So we are on a search for another long sleeved shirt. It’s not easy, but we finally end of with a long sleeved top, it’s bright orange and should have a volume control, see……
We share the 15 minutes boat trip to the Island with a few locals 1000 riel, that’s 25 cents one way. Also making the trip are a few locals, many of them in pyjama’s, Kraite’s latest fashion wear.
We arrive and take two push bikes, a dollar a piece. A great way to take a gander of the Island. The KP is happy, she’s at the controls instead of on the back of the motor. The only other time I’ve seen her on a bike was at Hype Park in London, where she was a little unsteady. This should be fun. The bikes are great as they are the traditional type with baskets up front, doing our most to integrate see we are.
The Island is meant to be a 14km round trip, so we set off but quickly make a beer stop. There’s no fridge so we opt for the Cambodian stout ABC. Nice it is too, a good start to the day, the breakfast of champions. It’s good fun cycling, we pass peoples homes, groups of happy kids, chickens, dogs, people cleaning rice from their harvest. We reach the end of the island and on the western side there is a water village……
The KP wonders why they live on the river? I have no answer, I can only suppose it’s for easy access to the fish, or the fact they just like it.
The Island is beautiful lots of crops planted, lush paddy fields, various groups of cows grazing, a selection of farming equipment which helps take you back in time. Plus we’ve beat the heat, having set out at seven. It’s magic meandering along together on the wheels, soon though the KP’s skills are called into question. I stop to take in a pair of cows farming some hay in a circle. She also decides to take a look but without stopping. A direct collision is avoided at the last moment as she veers to the left, her peddle taking the skin off my ankle. I’m thankful it was just a close call, but it confirms my thoughts, it’s not possible for her to ride a motorbike just yet 🙂 even though she wants it everyday.
That’s it, a busy morning done. We take the boat back and spot an interesting method of fishing along the shore, the thought gone into the design philosophy is excellent. Then you’ve guessed right, we don’t do much which is followed by another early night. Tomorrow we’ve leave for Laos at 07:00. I’m excited if only for Beerlao, Billy had told me it’s good a few years back.
It is, I sampled some in Phnom Penh.