With the two major Cambodia cities under our belts, Nicole and I were left with a day or so to make one more stop before heading north to Lao. After some lonely planet research we settled on the quiet town of Kratie about 8 and a half hours east. Kratie, which rests along the Mekong River is most well known by travelers as the spot to check out the endangered Irrawaddy freshwater Dolphins. In recent years, locals have guestimated the species population in Cambodia at less than 50 so the opportunity to catch a glimpse was worth the trip.
Our bus ride was more rugged then some of our previous rides which was cool and more authentic in a way. Our main bus dropped us on a major highway where we were miraculously scooped up by a mini-bus that was somehow perfectly coordinated with the bus at this very remote rendezvous point to complete the exchange of bewildered backpackers. Our mini-bus driver seemed to be working the traveler transportation in with his product transport gig as we made about a dozen stops to drop off the rice and ropes he had stored with our bags in the trunk. Not a bad setup and a very efficient use of time management so it was hard to fault the guy as we waited patiently in the sweltering bus watching him swap goods.
Once arriving to Kratie and avoiding the ever familiar tuk-tuk feeding frenzy, we marched our way to the You Hong II guesthouse where we bargained our way into a discounted rate that included air-con and 2 fans, woohaa!! Sorry, but a/c is a luxury I get excited about when considering my bodies reactions to the alternative which is a gross mess. Anyways, we checked in and took the ladder part of the after noon to grab some food at the in house restaurant and catch up on some sleep that we both knew we needed.
The next day found us saddlin up yet again on a motorbike and buzzin off into the distance in search of the endangered Irrawaddy. The roads to the boat docks was a great stretch of dirt and tarmac that weaved through the small towns that lined the Mekong.
Once again we were greeted with kind smiles and excited hellos from the younger crowds, especially when Nicole and her bare shoulders took the reigns for a bit. then we hear a few “ooohs” and “ahhhs”. I’ve gotten used to the fact that I don’t get that response but I know Nicole secretly loves it.
Arriving at the docks we purchased our tickets for $9 a piece and took to the river. The Mekong might not be the prettiest river but the day was absolutely perfect and as we cruised on our rickety longboat over the muddy waters we relaxed into the peaceful vibe that surrounded us.
After about a 45 minute cruise, our driver parked us near the banks and cut the motor to allow for our dolphin viewing. It took a bit but after a few minutes of tense waiting we heard he first blowhole gasp through the water and reveal a small shiny gray dorsal fin! A family of about 4 or 5 of the Irrawaddy made there way back and forth a few times but only just poking slightly out of the murky waters to take their breaths. I tried to get as many shots as I could and Nicole grabbed some flip video.
After about an hour, and a severe amount of fluids lost due to sweat we made our way back. All and all we were out on the water for over 2 hours and very happy to have seen the endangered species. The city of Kratie and its tourism depends greatly on the Irrawaddy Dolphins and so efforts are being made locally and globally to protect the species. Some positive news on the Dolphins came rather recently as 6,000 of the dolphins were discovered near Bangladesh. Read more on the WCS website by clicking here.
We cruised the town for a while more and after enough sun we called it a day and grabbed some dinner and took care of our bus booking to Pakse, Loas for the following day.
Another country completed with some fond memories made and experiences had along the way. Cambodia was colorful, happy and a deeply emotional place to visit for both Nicole and I. We come away from the nation with a stronger understanding of how people live without the support of their government and the struggle they endure while maintaining an unbelievably content exterior that made us feel welcome the whole way through. The temples of Angkor were of course pretty damn sweet too. Till next time brothers and sisters. Thanks for reading. Nows, we Laos 😉