Thursday, 7 April 2016

Travelling Southeast Asia: Kratie, Cambodia

Kratie was the second place we visited in Cambodia, after spending a few days in Phnom Penh. We got to Kratie by bus from the capital, which was fairly easy as we could buy the bus tickets from our hostel. Although it did take us multiple attempts as we were pronouncing Kratie as it is spelt, when in fact it’s pronounced Kra-cheh. Who knew…

Our bus left Phnom Penh at 9:45am, but we arrived about an hour before this to what seemed like complete organised chaos. There were about 15 buses with hundreds of people pilled in front of them, and no obvious system or way of telling which bus was which. In the end, our bus didn’t arrive until about five minutes before we were due to leave.

We were relieved, though, to find out it was a coach, rather than a minibus, so it was a reasonably comfortable journey, even if it did take eight hours instead of the scheduled five.

Since we’d been planning on eating lunch once we arrived in Kratie, we were starving by the time we actually got to our hotel so we ate in the hotel restaurant, which ended up being a lot cheaper and easier than taking the journey to the centre of Kratie Town.

We stayed at the River Dolphin Hotel (not to be confused with the abundance of other dolphin-themed hotels in Kratie). It was very basic for the price, and was definitely not as nice as our hostel in Phnom Penh, but as the four of us could share one room, it wasn’t too bad. Plus, it had a really small pool, which was a welcome and exciting addition.

The attraction of Kratie for tourists is that this small stretch of the Mekong River is home to Irrawaddy dolphins, a rare and endangered species. We had come to Kratie primarily to see these dolphins, so we only had one full day to spend there.

We had reserved mopeds from our hotel reception to get us to the right stretch of the river, but when we went to collect them in the morning we were told that they had already been taken, and the only other ones we could borrow were manual and had no helmets. Instead, we went by Tuk Tuk, which was a $15 round trip. It was a 14km bumpy journey to this particular spot on the river, which gave us our first real glimpses of rural Cambodia.

To go in a long boat with a guide cost $7 each, and we got to spend about an hour being taken up and down. Although you only catch glimpses of the dolphins and just see their fin above the surface of the water, we saw a lot more dolphins than we anticipated. In spite of not getting to see the distinctive noses of this species of dolphin, you know that by only catching glimpses of their fins, these dolphins are not being made to act in any way different to how they would naturally. There is also no guarantee that you’ll see any dolphins, as they are left alone entirely by the guides.

We had arrived at the river fairly early in the morning to try to catch sight of some dolphins, so we stopped off at Wat Phnom Sambok afterwards, before heading back to Kratie Town for lunch at Red Sun Falling Café.

When you forget to take your cover-up clothes...

After a failed attempt to find some bus tickets to Ban Lung, our next destination, we headed back to our hotel for an afternoon taking advantage of the hotel’s pool, where Vicky, who is an expert swimmer and teacher, taught a Cambodian child how to swim!

Since we had failed to find the bus tickets we wanted (we were keen to find a coach rather than a minibus), we ended up sourcing an unexpected method of transport from our hotel to take us to our next stop, which I will reveal, of course, in my next travel post.

Our second evening at the hotel restaurant was quite a memorable one, and we made quite an embarrassment of ourselves when a huge praying mantis landed on Vicky’s head and we all screamed and jumped away from the table, much to everyone else in the restaurant’s amusement. The waitress made us feel even more stupid, when she came over to assure us that praying mantises are harmless, picked the creature up and placed it on her head.

If only we’d know that this was nothing compared to the bug-related horrors we were about to encounter in Ban Lung…

I also vlogged our stay which gives an even better impression of Katie, so give that a watch and subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss the vlogs from the rest of the trip!


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