Kratie. Irrawaddy Dolphins and amazing sunsets.
Trip Start Mar 18, 2009
134Trip End Jan 12, 2010
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Our next destination was a very small town in the northeast called Kratie (pronounced Krachee), famed for its near extinct population of Irrawaddy dolphins and some of the best sunsets over the Mekong River in all of Cambodia. The only problem was that we had to take a 7 hour bus to get there. Kratie is only around 260 kilometres away from PP, but the route there is not the most sensible. What ever happened to the notion of "the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line".
Anyway, iPods charged and at the ready, we set off at 8am. Keeping to tradition I almost fell asleep instantly listening to music, while Emma starred out the window for a while before succumbing to the urge of sleep. Our first stop off was at Kampong Cham 2 hours into the journey. The toilets were the best so far on our travels (which is saying something) and the food stalls were not selling tarantulas this time, but deep fried insects.
Our second stop was a good 4 hours later at a very small town called Snoul. It gave us another chance to stretch the legs and appreciate the Cambodian countryside. We were definitely entering a completely different side of Cambodia as the landscape started to become hilly for the first time and the vegetation changed to lush forests (for rubber cultivation) and jungle terrain.
Around 3pm we arrived at Kratie. A very small riverside town. So small in fact that you could blink and drive straight through it. The usual band of moto drivers greeted us, but these ones were not very persistent and we collected our bags with ease and actually walked to our first ever hotel in Cambodia, the Balcony Guesthouse. Its not the prettiest to look at, but we definitely settled in quickly.
For the remainder of our first day we opted to hang out in the restaurant and then have a stroll along the Mekong and take in our first sunset. I'll let the pictures do the talking. We also arranged a tuk-tuk to take us to a small town called Kampi to hire a boat and take us out to see the Irrawaddy Dolphins. How exciting!!
Saturday 25th July
We both awoke with excitement and apprehension for the day ahead. Seeing the Irrawaddy Dolphins has been something on the to-do list for a while, but their dwindling numbers (around 20 in this region) will make it a challenge in the mighty Mekong. Our first shock of the day was seeing a spider on the door in our room, which was the size of my hand. The second was when we climbed into the tuk-tuk. As I sat down I nearly squashed another large hairy spider but it managed to scurry away. I thought best not to say anything to Emma, but as we just started to pull away it decided to climb in and join us for the ride. We both sat with our feet on the seat throughout the journey, yep were aren't that brave.
The journey to Kampi was picturesque. A small river village along the banks of the Mekong greeted us with cries of Hello and smells of the countryside. All of the houses were on stilts and most had livestock tucked underneath. Once at Kampi the price to hire a boat for 2 people was $18. We climbed aboard and set off.
The Mekong was incredibly wide at this point. So much so, that the tree lined horizon was so small in the distance, that all we could see was blue sky at some points, a truly amazing sight. Our driver had to battle many fierce currents to get us to our destination, roughly 25 minutes away. Just as we pulled up a couple of other boats left. Within minutes we glimpsed our first sighting. It was breathtaking!
Soon we were the only boat out there and the sightings increased in frequency. Our driver stealthily followed a pod of dolphins and we got to watch some of their hunting behavior, as they splashed in the water. The Irrawaddy dolphin is very different in appearance to the bottle nose dolphin. Darker Grey in colour, a rounded head and a happy smile on its face. It makes the news of their decline ever more tragic, which is why we strongly recommend anyone in Cambodia to come and visit these dolphins and help the local people realise their attractiveness to tourists, increasing their worth and protection.
We made our way back to the hotel in a very content mood. Relaxing through the rest of the afternoon, we opted to see the sunset again. Bliss! Our next adventure will take us to Rattanakiri and a volcanic lake. Our last stop in Cambodia before moving onto Laos.
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Where I stayed
The Balcony Guesthouse