STOP 6 | Day 17 to 18 |
The next stop on the journey was to the quiet Mekong riverside town of Kratie, which is primarily known as the gateway point to visit the Irawaddy River Dolphin. Although it is not a true river dolphin, but an oceanic dolphin where small sub-populations exist in brackish water in a few countries across Asia. About 15kms north of Kratie in the town of Kampi the Irrawaddy Dolphin can be found in a dwindling pod where it is estimated less than 90 still exist.
The path to Kratie is not heavily trodden and you don’t see as many tourists. The town of Kratie is located about 8 hours east of Siem Reap. To get to Kratie we opted for a mini-van as our mode of transport, versus the local bus; however once we got picked up at 7AM and taken to the company’s departure point we realized this was not the “VIP” transport we had signed up for. The van was hardly road worthy with a cracked windshield and 4 rows of seats jammed into the van, we were oddly told we couldn’t sit in the second row (which had the most leg room, later it became evident this “leg room” was where all the packages and food were to be stored), our bags were jammed under the back row given there was no trunk space and off we went. Before we left Siem Reap we proceeded to make multiple stops picking up locals, packages and food along the way (a bag of yams was in the aisle right beside J). We made a stop about 3 hours into the journey at a very local restaurant off the side of the road, we opted to just purchase a few drinks instead of risking it with food. With about 1.5 hours left in our journey we made another stop, after getting off to stretch our legs we were told that we had to take our bags off the van as it was headed to another province and another van was to pick us up. We were slightly confused as we were told we did not have transfer vehicles when we purchased the tickets. Without much that we could do we removed our bags and waited. About 10 minutes later we were told our van had arrived, we carried our bags on to the road where A’s response was “You have to be f***ing kidding me” (if we thought the first van was not road worthy this one should’ve been in the junk yard). In front of us was a van with a table and jugs tied on the back, the trunk was jammed with boxes, another table was in the back seat with 4 locals. They proceeded to jam our bags into the back with the locals and pointed to the second row where we were to sit. Between a ton of cursing (and maybe a tearful sob from A) we had no choice but to get into the dirty AC-less van. 1.5 hours later we arrived in Kratie, A having the window seat was covered in a nice layer of brown dirt.
After a welcoming shower J managed to calm A down and convince her to chalk it up as another “experience” we went to Le Tonle to get some food. Le Tonle is a guesthouse and restaurant that offers hospitality training to disadvantaged Cambodian youth. The food and drinks were all very good and reasonably priced. Unfortunately that evening and the next morning it was a torrential downpour, which made us worried that our traumatic van ride was for nothing if we couldn’t go out to see the Irrawaddy Dolphins! Thankfully it cleared up around noon and off we went in a tuk tuk to Kampi Village. The boat trip is a fixed government cost (of $9USD per person). Heading out on the Mekong River here was quite different from our Vietnam experience, we were one of two boats out (versus in Vietnam there were boats everywhere). It was quite a peaceful boat trip, during our hour out on the Mekong we were able to see what J estimates was about 4 dolphins spouting all around the boat.
We did have one of the best Fish Amok and Beef Lok Lak in Kratie at the Tokae Restaurant . Aside from a trip to see the dolphins Kratie is a pretty quiet rivertown, which we enjoyed the downtime to relax and also plan our next few stops on our trip.