We arrived in Kratie yesterday, just, after our bus company told us that we were to wait till we got to the bus station. Little did we know that we had just stopped at the 'bus station' in Kratie which was just the side of the road. We had seen some signs on buildings with Kratie on them so we knew we were in Kratie. So the bus drove on down the road and onto a country road. Now Kratie is a small place and we knew that something wasn't right and asked the conductor if we were going to the right place. The bus pulled over straight away as it turned out that we had missed our stop due to their error. If we hadn't spoken up we would have ended up in Sambour about another 2 hours drive away from where we needed to be. The bus driver hailed us a Moto (motorbike taxi) to take us back up the road for about 5 mile and drop us off in the centre of Kratie. Good on them though as they paid the fair for us due to their mistake. Now if you can picture the driver, me and ash and our backpacks all squeezing onto one little scooter. Absoluty crazy, but it was the only way we could have got back to Kratie as there was nowhere for the bus to turn around for the next 60 miles or so. The ride back was not really comfortable with Ashleigh's backpack between the driver's legs, Ashleigh sat behind the driver holding our little rucksacks and me sat behind Ashleigh wearing my backpack with a little handle at the back of the seat to hold onto. The ride was slow, bumpy and a bit nerve racking as our driver giggled at the situation all the way back to Kratie.
We got to our digs that we had pre booked called the Balcony Guesthouse. Rather cheap, very cheerful and great cheap food that will do us nicely. We had our customary walk around the area to check it out and found that it is a great little place with a bustling market, kids happy to say hello and great river side views whilst walking along the Mekong River. On the evening we spent our time back at Balcony Guesthouse chatting with the owner, eating grub and watching movies from the vast collection of DVD's that were on offer for us to watch in the communal area. We loved this as it's been the first place that has had this kind of thing. Sounds like a pretty standard thing but when you are traveling, little things like that make a massive difference to the experience of the place that your staying in as it gives you a bit of normality to your stay. It has been great just being able to take a bit time out and watch whatever it is you want to watch.
Today we took a Tuk-Tuk from our digs up river to Kampi to try and spot the Irrawaddy Dolphin's that are an endangered breed of fresh water dolphin's that live in the Mekong River. On our way there we stopped off at Sambok Mountain as our driver told us it had great views of the Mekong River. After climbing the never ending stairs, we finally made it to the top of the mountain to find a pagoda at the summit. Looking inside the pagoda was more spectacular than the views as inside was decorated from floor to ceiling with many weird and wonderful paintings. Some of the painting were a bit gruesome as they depicted people tied to trees having poles pushed up their…well bums whilst below them people were pinned down having there heads cut off. Very strange, yet very interesting. The colours were really vivid to. The views outside of the pagoda were still great but we were limited to what we could see by the large leaf laden trees. The walk back down the mountain was more welcomed than the walk up as kids appeared from everywhere to say hello nearly every step of the way down.
We jumped back in our Tuk-Tuk for the short ride up to Kampi to do our dolphin spotting. We paid $9 each for our tour which I suppose was a bit pricey but well worth it. We boarded our boat and were taken about 15 minutes up river to the area where the rare dolphins lived. The guide switched off the engine and we floated into the bank of the river. It only took a few minutes until we heard and seen our first dolphin. "PPPPPPUUUURRRRSSSHH" was the sound to listen out for as the dolphins came up for air. Trying to get a photograph was rather tricky because as soon as they had came up for air, they bobbed their rounded heads straight back into the water. I didnt really know what to expect but I knew that they wouldn't be jumping out of the water like Flipper at the same time. It was rather relaxing just sitting there for around an hour watching the dolphin's bobbing up and down for air. I hope it's not the case but you might not even be able to see these animals in their natural habitat for very much longer, so we are very grateful that we have had the chance to see them with our own eyes. Sailing back down river, the heavens opened and we were drenched within five seconds. There was more water on us from than there was in the river. The downpour only lasted a few minutes and the sun was shinning again. As we climbed off the boat and back into our Tuk-Tuk like a couple of drowned rats, we made our way back to Kratie. On route we stopped off at Thma Kreae village to sample the famous Krolan (sticky rice) and Nhem (pickled raw fish.) The sticky rice is cooked and served inside sticks of bamboo that you peal away to reveal the slightly sweet yet savory rice. The pickled raw fish was another thing all together.They came in little parceled bundles of about 10 and were rapped in a banana leaf that you unraveled. You are left with a small mouthful. It looked like the fish was rapped in Basil and we popped the little parcel straight in our traps. It wasn't awful but at the same time it wasn't tasty. Overall though we both decided that we didn't really want anymore and gave the remaining parcels to our Tuk-Tuk driver, which he was over the moon with.
We were going to move onto Laos tomorrow but have read about a place called Ban Lung that sounds too good to miss. Described as a place with waterfalls and volcanic lakes to swim in, it would be rude not to take a look and spend a few days there playing in the waterfalls pretending we are filming adverts for shampoo and aftershave!
Love Peter and Ashleigh x