Two nights in Kratié
The bus ride to Kratié was bad.
A terrible “comedy” about women being raped was played on the television and over the speakers louder than I thought was possible.
The roads here are bad, and after several hours of bumping along them our bums longed for home.
The food that was available along the way was mostly of the unidentifiable-and-sitting-in-a container-for-hours-in-the-sun kind, and we felt it would be foolish to take a gamble, given our unvaccinated status.
We ate bread and drank some weird juice and basil seed concoctions, and waited patiently for the ordeal to end.
Eventually, it did.
Kratié is a riverside town with a bustling (if stinky) marketplace and two tourist restaurants.
It’s pretty, and there’s a fair bit around to go and see, but I don’t know if I’d bother travelling eight hours there and eight hours away again, if I had my time again.
We settled in, ate at Tourist Restaurant No. 1, and organised a tuk tuk ride for the following day to take us to sample the local entertainment.
Bright and early yesterday morning, we hopped into the tuk tuk and drove a very long way to the Sopor Kaley “mountain”.
It’s basically a large religious complex on a hillside with very many steps. It was interesting enough, but the trash, oh the trash. It was everywhere, as it is in all of Cambodia, seemingly.
Plastic, mainly, covers most of the visible ground and water in the places we’ve been so far, including the vast swathes of countryside we’ve flown past on our way between towns.
Cambodia is too poor to care about waste. The people are, anyway.
What they don’t toss into the river or on the streets, they burn. Children can be seen, naked, on the banks of the canals of Phnom Penh, stoking large, flaming piles of plastic waste.
Four year olds wander the streets, picking chicken feet out of rubbish bags and gnawing on them, chattering happily.
This is no paradise, though people smile like it is.
Back on topic, the next stop was a good while down the road, so we had plenty of time to wave to the school-ward children yelling “hello!” and giggling madly as we passed by.
Eventually, we stopped at the dolphin watching cruise spot.
We saw quite a number of them out there on the water. There are apparently only fifty of the Irrawaddy dolphins left on the Mekong, but conservation efforts are being made to increase their numbers.
I did not manage to capture them on film, but a quick google search will show you what their cute little faces look like.
When our hour was up, we moved back onto the road. For a very long time.
Eventually, we stopped at a local palm sugar maker’s house and learned (without terribly much verbal explanation due to language barriers) basically how it’s made.
It has something to do with spinning a huge bowl filled with the palm fruit until it’s smooth and hard.
And then it was time to visit the 100-column pagoda, and the turtle sanctuary.
It has, in fact, got 116 columns, but only post 1987 renovations. It was nice to look at, but we were very hungry.
The turtles were very cool, though, and the guide made a wonderful effort to convey to us the sanctuary’s purpose, projects, and the plight of the turtles, in very decent English.
Since it’s inception in the early 2000s, the project helped increase soft shell turtle hatchling survival numbers from 150 to over 1,300 in under a decade.
Seems to be working!
There was also a random crocodile on our way out.
Then it was lunch time, and a long ride back along the road to a beautiful swimming spot at the Kampi Rapids.
By this stage, we were starting to feel faint from exhaustion, and the extremely long (I keep saying this, but it’s just true) tuk tuk ride back to our hotel, squinting against incredible dust clouds and smoke from plastic fires, did nothing to relax us.
We drove past a number of strange cars blasting what sounded like it could have been election propaganda from loudspeakers strapped to the outside of their windshields.
I still don’t know what that was about.
When, at last, we arrived back at the Heng Heng II (our most-things-you-need, definitely-nothing-you-don’t hotel), we collapsed, completely tuckered out, and spent the evening watching Netflix.
This morning it was back on the bus at 7 o’clock and another massively extensive bus ride to Siem Reap, entrance to the Angkor Wat temple complex.
We arrived an hour or so ago and are about to head out and sample the local food (maybe Mexican, actually, since we saw an interesting spot called “Tuk Tuk Tacos” on our way in).
Next time I post, I imagine we’ll be fairly templed out.