Sunday, July 22, 2007

Been nice to know ya, I'm moving to Kratie

Had an absolutely amazing time in Kratie this weekend. Saturday morning I met up with 6 Germans who are working in various fields here in Phnom Penh and we took a 7 hour bus trip into the Northeast area of Cambodia. That, in itself was a bit of an experience, as we stopped in a few towns for food breaks and had such entertainment on the tv as a Cambodian comedy show, a Chinese movie with baby ninjas and the worst (irritating) dubbing voices I've ever heard, and Cambodian karaoke videos (primarily lovely love ballads filmed in the rice paddies). This first picture is from the bus--as you can tell it was raining a bit, which kept it nice and cool (that and the a/c).

We arrived in Kratie around 2:30, and set it up with our hotel guy to go see the dolphins around 3:00. This next picture is the view from our balcony of the Mekong River. Kratie is a really nice little town from what we saw. Lovely restaurants along the riverfront and some nice markets and such in the "downtown" area.

We each had our own moto-driver to us the 15 km to the boat docks. The drive itself was almost worth the trip. We went down this smallish road, probably 12 feet across, lined on each side by houses. It was just beautiful, and it smelled like cows, which made me feel right at home ;-) In fact, on the way back after seeing the dolphins (did I just ruin the surprise, yes, we saw lots of dolphins) we actually had a rather entertaining moment that completely reminded me of home. Cruising along on the moto when all of a sudden this cow, who is being led by a little boy, decides to become a bit frisky (it was that nice cooling off part of the evening when they tend to want to do that) and jumps and spins and kicks into the road--close enough I could easily touch him even after my moto driver swerved. Everyone was okay and I think it scared the driver much more than me. It just reminded me of my days in 4-H.

These pictures below are of our journey out. First, all the foreigners (us) on our motos, then some cows and a goat coming into town, then a pony and cart (they use these quite a bit up there...I think I'd have to get one as well), then one of the houses along the road, and then the actual road.

We arrived at the boat area and headed down to the flotilla. Four or five to a boat so our little group split and I did my boating with a French couple and Jens and Christian from our group.

It was just a short little trip out to the main feeding grounds of the dolphins. Once we were there the driver cut the engine and tied up to some twigs and there we sat, listening to the river and the frequent exhale of breath and water as the dolphins surfaced. Absolutely relaxing and soul replenishing. The dolphins usually surfaced in groups of two or three--it was extremely tricky to get a picture of them although I did my best for all of you. They came up quite close to the boat though and we were able to see them fairly clearly. Beautiful animals that look more like a small whale with their rounded heads than the bottlenose dolphin. According to the tickets we got for the boats there are only about 100 Mekong Rivery Irrawaddy Dolphins left in the world. They feed primarily in these two deep-water pools, usually around 25 at a time can be found at one of those areas.

We stayed out with the dolphins for around two hours, and then headed in right as the sun was beginning to get a bit lower. One of our group had the brilliant idea of heading up to Wat Sampot, at the top of the hill seen in the first of the pictures below to watch the sun set. So we took our motos up to the wat. The picture of the tall statute is at the base of the first set of stairs to the top. There were three similar sets of steps, and I quickly realized how out of shape I've gotten sitting at the office! Also at the base, our moto drivers set up a card game while they waited for us, and I found myself a horse.

The hike up was well worth it, as once we got to the top we had incredible views all around of the fields and Mekong. The sun set up there was rather nice as well. We went down while we still had a little light and watched the end of the sunset as we went back on our motos along the river. We ended our evening with some dinner at a nice little restaurant on the river and then sat on the rooftop terrace of our hotel.

This morning we got up, had a bit of a look around the town, and then headed home on the bus again. The last picture here is of a field with what we think is a hay pile (just for Cece, reminded me of the stacks) and some cows--much like the one that tried to kill us. So, overall it was a terrific getaway, and I think I might get myself a cart and pony, a kayak in which I can commune with the dolphins, and move on up to Kratie. Or I'll just come home to Idaho :-)


Jens said...

Hey Kristi! Was a really nice weekend. And your pictures are really looking great! I will send you a couple of mine in exchange for some of yours. :)
Already looking forward to our trip to Sihanoukville.

Cya later, Jens

Anonymous said...

Idaho is BORING! But come visit.