Beautiful Mekong Sunsets and Irrawaddy Dolphins

Trip Start May 20, 2010
1
55
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Trip End Sep 05, 2011


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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Monday, October 25, 2010

DOMINIQUE HERE:

Day : 164
Temperature : 32 degrees
Weather : Sunny mornings, cloudy afternoons

We left Siem Reap at 6.45am yesterday morning, mentally prepared for our 8 hour bus journey to Kratie. We thought it was odd that we were the only two people on the bus, but then we realised we were going to almost every hotel in Siem Reap to pick up other tourists....why did we have to be first?? We could have had an extra hour in bed!! We then stopped at the bus station where we were transferred to another bus going to Kratie. We were pleasantly surprised. This was a proper coach style bus, not a rickety old rust bucket....8 hours on here would be fine. Furthermore, there were plenty of spare seats which meant I could lie down across the 5 seats at the back, completely horizontal, and have a good snooze. Five hours into the journey I found myself being shaken awake by the bus driver who was shouting at me "Kratie, Kratie!" and pointing to somewhere outside of the bus.All the other people on the bus were gone. Kevin and I were herded off the bus and before we knew it our bags were stuffed into a minibus, money was exchanging hands between our bus driver and the new minibus driver, and our bus driver sped off. We were then crammed into the most uncomfortable, overloaded minibus on earth...it suddenly dawned on us that perhaps our driver on the big bus decided it wasn't worth taking two people to Kratie and so he payed the minibus driver to take us instead. We will never know, but this was one expensive, uncomfortable minibus ride.

Kratie is a small provincial town on the banks of the Mekong River in north eastern Cambodia. It is an ideal place to stop for a day or two on our journey to Laos. We are staying in the Oudom Sambath hotel which is right on the riverfront. The rooms are spacious and comfortable with TV and hot showers. The views over the Mekong River at sunset are fantastic. They do however, have the most uncomfortable pillows we've had on our entire trip...it's like trying to rest your head on a basketball! Unfortunately, I forgot to test the pillows when we looked at the room...big mistake.

We now have a routine when we are looking at hotel rooms, it's quite interesting, and I think very useful. First you need to check the location of your room....if it's next to elevators, staircases, or at the start of a corridor it's a bad move. You will be woken up by everyone and their dog walking past. Then you need to check the windows, the door and the key...security is important you know. Next, take in the size of the room...we've had some teeny tiny rooms which is an absolute 'mare because there is no room for rucksacks and "stuff", and this always leads to arguments because your "stuff" always gets lost, and you are convinced the other person took something of your "stuff" and never put it back!!  Space, we have found, is crucially important for avoiding conflict! Next on the room survey is the bathroom...cleanliness is key here. A shower that has water coming out of it and a toilet that flushes is a bonus. Interestingly, in South East Asia you are always given two toothbrushes and a small tube of toothpaste....although the toothpaste is a bit yucky, but it saves you having to use your own. If you are lucky you get a bar of soap too. Then you have to check the bed. Is it a foam mattress or a spring mattress?  Although foam mattresses can be comfortable, they are really best avoided unless you have an efficient air-conditioning system....it's just too hot if your room has a fan and you wake up covered in sweat in the night. Not good. It's also a good idea to check for bedbugs at this point.....have a peek under the sheets and give the mattress a good prod. Then the pillows...it's very, very rare that you get a good pillow over here. They are either thin and lifeless and you might as well not have one. Or they are the size and shape of basketballs. Luckily, I brought my own pillowcase (sadly not my own pillow as Kevin insisted that this was strictly forbidden) and so I can stuff my fleece, towels, and clothes into it. Not quite as comfy as my pillow back home but it makes a useful substitute. You are very rarely going to get everything to your satifaction and a compromise is ultimately required....you often end up thinking...."will I get more sleep if I take the hotel with the room next to the noisy road, or the hotel with the quiet room but the rock hard mattress and useless pillow." Often, the deal breaker will be whether there is free WiFi included, but these, people, are the dilemas that we face every day! It's tough!

Enough of my blabbering. Today we took a trip up the Mekong to see the Irriwaddy Dolphins. It cost a small fortune but these animals are critically endangered and so this could be the last chance to see them. We were a little sceptical at first, thinking that maybe we will be lucky if we see one at all. But no sooner had we arrived at our destination and we sighted our first dolphin about 15 metres away. Our boat driver cut the engine and we drifted around for about an hour. It's hard to say how many dolphins we saw, maybe about ten. But for the entire hour we were surrounded by them. It was really interesting to watch them as they chased and hunted the fish. Occasionally they would jump out of the water, but I was never quick enough to get a photo. Infact it was almost impossible to get any photographs because they suddenly appear from nowhere out of the water and then they are gone again. Never mind. It was well worth seeing them, but I think it would be possible to do this much more cheapely if you hired a motorbike or tuk-tuk on your own. You can drive to Kampi or get your tuk-tuk to take you to the village (about half an hour away from Kratie) and pay the entrance fee and boat / guide hire on the spot.

Tomorrow we head for the Laos border. Fingers crossed we can bribe our way to a visa on arrival. We have heard mixed things from "No definitely not", to "Yeah, they started a month ago". Better get a few extra One Dollar bills, and perhaps some packets of Cigarrettes then.....otherwise we are heading back to Phnom Penh.
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Comments

Eileen on

Gawd ... it must be soo tough for you guys ! on holiday .. traveling the world ..meeting new people ..seeing all the wonders !

I do think how lucky I am sitting here in wet, cold, miserable Kemble ... at work .. same thing day in day out !! :) :) :)

fab blog .. speak soon xxxx

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