Greetings from Cambodia!
Well what a journey! the boarder crossing goes at the top of the list for pain in the ass travelling. We caught a boat over to the main land where we were supposed to get on a bus that would take us to the boarder and then a new bus on the other side to bring us to Kratie, our first stop. When we arrived at the first bus stop we had to fill in our forms and hand in our passports with the money for the visa, this took all together about an hour, an hour of waiting in the heat, not great but kind of to be expected. Our mini bus took us to the boarder crossing where we just walked straight through, there was a medical section half way up the road where you had your temperature taken, it was basically a lasor gun that they held up to your neck, didnt touch you just held it near your neck and if your temperature was ok you got given a medical form which you had to keep and take with you to hospital if you get sick, so i get through ok but Damo apparently has too high a temperature and had to go and sit in 'quarantine', this was just a bench under a tent with a big sign saying quarantine. The whole thing was a joke, they tested it again 2 or 3 times and it all read high, he was like 'hello its 30' and i have had to stand in the sun waiting around for ages is it any wonder im hot?' he got through in the end. So once we had got through we were told we had to go and sit at this row of cafe type places and wait for the bus which was going to be another hour, the bus didnt show up for nearly 2 hours and when it did everyone clamberd on, the bus driver told us this bus wasnt going to Kratie which was our stop, so about 10 of us didnt get on the bus, the driver had w***d off again and there was no one anywhere to ask what was going on, this went on for another 40 minutes until he came back and said yes get on we are going to kratie. No room, every seat had already been taken so we had to sit on these tiny stools in the ally of the bus for almost an hour until some people got off on the first stop, nightmare! And then to top it all off we broke down! the roads are majorly bad over here, huge dips and bumps so i think we just hit something underneath the bus, we were there for about 30 mins while they fixed it. The roads are mental and they dont take care driving over them so its no wonder, i think its probably a regular accurance for them to damage stuff with the way they drive.
The only upside to the whole day was we were with a really good bunch of people who were all staying in Kratie so we ended up all staying at the same hotel. The hotel was cheap as chips and is really plush! it cost us $7 which is about £4 and its a really modern swanky room, i think its just standard pricing for Cambodia though, the food, drinks everything is almost half what we have een paying in Laos. The most expensive thing on the menue is $3, about £2!
The hotel has a tuktuk driver who started selling us a tour he does, we took the leaflet and went and had dinner all 6 of us, the tour sounded really good but unless we could find another 2 people it would be ay more expensive, just because he could fit 4 in one tuktuk. On our way back to the hotel we saw the man again and he had found another couple who wanted to do it so we booked for the next morning. The trip was the best trip we have had, he took us out from 8:30 and we didnt get home until 6:30! we went first and stopped off at the village where they make a snack food that gets sold all around town, like a factory but it just looked like someones house. Im not sure what the name of it is but its basically a piece of hollow bamboo that gets stuffed with sticky rice, beans and coconut milk and then cooked, you then peel the bamboo like a banana skin and eat the rice inside, its delicous and we all got a stick of our own to try. After that we went and saw some dolphins, we got on a boat and went out on the Mekong, we did see some but not many, they dont look like regular dolphins they looked almost deformed. We went to a temple on the top of a hill where our driver explained the Cambodian view on Buddhism. The temples were full of these really horrific paintings of people getting killed. It is kind of like the ten commandments, they believe that if you do certain things then these specific bad things will happen when you die, for example if a woman cheats on her husband she gets tourtured (down below) and the paintings were so graphic, and then if a monk (who is not allowed to kill an animal) does kill an animal then they will get slaughterd like that animal. It was really wierd to see such graphic and disturbing paintings but in a temple where there are also paintings of Buddah and statues to worship. So after our temple tour we stopped off at a locals house where they were making palm sugar, we learned how they climb up the palm trees, cut the branches and hang jugs at the base of the stump until all the juice has leaked out, they then cook it and once its been cooled it turns into a fudge like texture, we got to try some and it was delicous! same look and feel as fudge but with a really sweet smokey taste. The funniest part of the day was the turtle sanctuary, the tuktuk driver who had been the perfect tour guide all day took us to a turtle conservation centre, they take baby turtles out of the Meong and bring them upn until they are big enough and strong enough to survive in the river. He showed us a big pool were he told us there were two giant turtles weighing 16-20kg! He only went and got in the pool! he said if he could find them (which he assured us he had done before) then he would pick one up to show us. He was paddling around in this pool for ages and then one of the guys we were with who was about 6ft4 got in with him! it was the funniest thing ever, we were all wetting ourselves watching this giant german and this tiny Cambodian man paddle around cautiously trying to find these turtles, they didnt find them in the end but just watchig the whole thing was well worth it. The day didnt stop there, on our travels there was a wedding going on in someones front garden so we stopped and the driver insisted it would be ok for us to go in, they all loved it, it was the wierdest most surreal thing gate crashing a wedding, they had a tranni comedian there, we didnt have a clue what he was saying but he sure made a joke about all of us! The driver explained that it is like an honour to the family for us to come and see them so we felt ok about being there, we were only there 10 minutes before we left. So to end the day our little man took us to his family home for dinner, it was so special, it was awsome to actually go inside one of the houses we have seen from the road, made completly from bamboo and was built 60 years ago. His wife had made dinner for all 8 of us and the the two drivers, it was the best meal we have had in our whole trip, there was a curry, some veg, rice, a fish soup and then the traditonal cambodian dish called Amok, which is meat in a thick sauce with cocnut milk and an egg yolk served on the top. scrummy! After dinner he drove us to watch the sunset by the river, on the river you could see a floating village, they are Vietnamese people who have lived on the river for years, they make fishing boats out of bamboo, really incredible. By the time we got home we were all pooped, we met again for some drinks before bed, they are all a really nice bunch of people and we got on really well, two of them were the couple who we had first met all the way at the north of Laos and have been seeing at various points along route, we are taking the same route so we will be sure to see them again.
Kratie town itself is quite busy and there is only a very small number of traveller spots, its the trips out that make this town worth a visit and we were just so lucky that we met our little driver man because he gave us the best trip ever and he only charged $10 per person for the whole day, incredible.
On our second day we had planned to move over to Siem Reap but the bus leaves at 7am so we decided to have a day catching up on the blog and watching movies in our comfy plush room. Tomorrow is now travelling day so its an early night for us ready for our 7am, 6 hour bus ride to Siem Reap. Canni wait :)