Our journey to Kratie was a little more, errr, let’s say thrilling, than previous journeys thus far: The maniac minibus driver felt that using his horn was an adequate safety measure, when frequently overtaking on blind corners. Although there’s probably insufficient evidence this is successful all of the time, we did arrive in one piece, so I’m willing to accept the driver’s daredevil methods on this occasion.
But that wasn’t all of our risky travelling done for the day; we still had to make it across the raging Mekong, to our guesthouse on the island of Koh Trong, which sits parallel to Kratie. Rather than doing so on a modern day boat, equipped with safety equipment etc, our crossing was made using what looked like a 12th century wooden raft with a lorry engine attached to the back and two tattered life jackets hanging on the side. At least a friendly monk was there to keep our minds off things, talking us through the Microsoft Excel training course he was currently undertaking.
Once safely on the island, not wanting to give up on dangerous modes of transport, we jumped on the backs of two waiting motorbikes, and were driven at serious speed along a narrow concrete path through the trees. Just before a torrential downpour had begun, we finally made it to Arun Mekong Guesthouse. The place wasn’t very clean or well maintained for the price we were paying, but at least the food was good – my fish red Thai curry was possibly the best I’ve ever had!
The next morning, after another night of giant spider wrestling, saw us come face to face with more of Cambodia’s deadly inhabitants. While I was packing my bag in the bedroom, Joella frustratingly called out from the bathroom: “Oh great, now what’s this crabby insect thing”. Initially, thinking it was probably a beetle or similar, I calmly walked in to see what the fuss was about – oh a scorpion. Probably worth making a fuss over then! Fortunately it was stuck in the sink, making it easier for the manager / receptionist / waiter / cook guy to make the kill. (Apologies for the grainy photo bellow, I’m unable to upload and therefore crop full resolution pics to my iPad while on the road…)
With the latest danger averted, we could now head on our way to seek out rare Irrawaddy river dolphins. After another Mekong crossing, an hour’s worth of tuk tuking, and 30 minutes on a private river boat, we were closing in on where the dolphins were apparently hanging out. Neither Joella nor I were 100% confident that we’d get to see them given it was Monsoon season, so you can imagine our faces when we were greeted by a pod of 6 or more swimming within 10 metres of our boat! Although none attempted to perform any backflips (too much watching of Flipper me thinks), we throughly enjoyed the show, as well as the constant whooshing noises they made each time they surfaced for air.
On the way back our tuk tuk driver took us past his home to grab a quick bite to eat. Snails were on the menu, which he ate speedily with a toothpick while his children and mother in law (she looked about 120 odd) watched disapprovingly – apparently we weren’t the only ones who aren’t a fan of l’escargot!
On our final full day in Cambodia, we successfully circumnavigated Koh Trong island’s muddy paths (impressive given Joella’s choice to wear slippery flip flops). Given that it was Joella’s birthday, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner and cocktails at the fancy resort next door. Obviously pizza was on the menu, as well as some exceptionally tasty triple-fried, chunky chips.
Although Kratie’s tatty accommodation left a lot to be desired (apart from the food and entertaining local cats), we did truly appreciate the opportunity to see the dolphins, especially considering how endangered they are believed to be.
Cambodia, you’ve been good to us – next stop Laos!