Wearing sunscreen should be second nature to me. I am a ginger. I burn when the clouds part and normal skinned humans recognise what they call the Sun, even if this happens just for a millisecond. Therefore I should know now, by age 26, that applying sun screen is a good idea. Especially when you are visiting a country with temperatures reaching nearly forty degrees most of the days that you’re there. Unfortunately I have not wised up to this knowledge and I was left sporting a peely face that resembles something between an onion and satsuma.
How did this unfortunate run in with the Sun occur? In Kratie, a place apparently actually pronounced ‘Crachay’ and therefore unidentifiable when you try to say it to any local without that piece of info. We were there to try and spot the Irrawaddy river dolphin, a rare and oddly shaped creature that lives in this part of the Mekong. Presumably they also live in the Irrawaddy, not something I thought to find out when we were closer to that river. A six and a half hour bus journey, accompanied with lots of Cambodian karaoke and loud Thai films meant we arrived in the little town a bit rough. Yet we soon settled into our cosy room at Le Tonle guesthouse. This is a guesthouse run by a NGO to help train young locals in hospitality. We had a pretty good stay here, all the staff were really kind but you could tell they were learning the ropes.
The main attraction in Kratie is the dolphins and so like everyone else we set out to find them. Previously they were endangered by the fishing techniques used along the river, but with some gentle pushing the fishermen have been persuaded to change to more dolphin friendly techniques and can make up the money lost by taking tourists on boat rides. There’s no haggling required here, you turn up and it’s either $9 or $7 per person depending on your group size (cheaper with more people). Take your ticket and head down to the boat men who will take you out.
Boats waiting to take us out:
The Irrawaddy Dolphins are a more timid bunch than those you find in other waters, potentially due to the fishing that has almost sent them into that category no species wishes for ‘extinction’. Despite their timid nature we were lucky to see a few of these awesome creatures, with their funny little heads popping out over and over for the length of our boat trip. Our driver seemed a bit lazy by not wanting to go further out into the river but turns out he just knew where some of the dolphins liked to play once they saw all the other boats go out. We had a great time out on the water but our time was soon up and the bikes were waiting for the long ride back to town.
Some of the dolphins playing (limited by my lack of zoom):
Kratie was pretty much a 3 day detour during our trip to Cambodia, it’s pretty far out the way just to go and see dolphins but I loved it and wish we could have spent a bit more time up in that area of the country. Maybe next time!