Our last chilled day in sunny Siem Reap we did research on how to get to our next destination – Kratie – on the way to Pakse in Laos. Quite a journey with very limited options, and our Internet research doesn’t show any clear or simple options. Up until now we’ve been on a well trodden backpacker path where connections and transport seems to be easy, but from here to Kratie and then from Kratie into Laos information is scarce. What makes it more confusing is the conflicting information on who to trust, and even if a VOA (Visa on arrival) is available at the Cambodia/Laos border…. Hey ho – that adventure is to come!
For now, the only transport we can find is the Phnom Penh PP Sorya 168 bus company. Their office in Siem Reap is on Savaha Boulevard – not the location on their website. A bus from Siem Reap to Kratie requires a change at Kampong Cham. Leaving SR at 7:30,due at KC at 12:00, then the bus from KC to Kratie at 12:45 arriving 16:00. All for $10. Apparently.
The pick up bus was due at 06:45 and arrived promptly at 07:20 taking us to our first bus, the 07:30 – which left at 8:00. After a couple of coffee breaks (needed to get away from the flippin’ Khmer Karaoke) we arrive in Kampong Cham at 13:30 – 45 minutes after our connecting bus left. Other people on the bus were told the connecting bus was at 13:00, 13:15 and any other time. Regardless, we were told to wait for the 14:00 bus that arrived at 14:30 which we all bundled on. Looks like this bus was the one we should have got and the time on the ticket was a lie. We eventually arrived in Kratie at 18:30 – so quite a long day!
The roads were actually quite good and the drivers as quick as the busses would go, so I’d be surprised if the journey could be much quicker by bus. The views along the way were impressive and almost like a time machine as we passed people working the land in the old method, even with ox and carts.
Kratie town itself is, well, pretty dull and a bit dirty, and probably not a destination in itself if it were not for its location. That said, it does have a lovely local feel to it and you do get the sense you are away from the backpacker trail even if you aren’t. The market building burned down a few months before we arrived, so work is ongoing to rebuild the centre of town which should bring it back to life a bit. Hopefully they’ll open more eateries as the choice is limited and poor.
One of the main attractions near Kratie is the rare Irrawaddy fresh water dolphin only found here, with only around 80 left alive. We hired a motorbike to visit the area at Kampi, and of course Cambodia drives on the European right. Not that it actually seems to make any difference as people tend to drive on whatever side is in the shade. Along the way stopped at the Kampi rapids – an area where the Mekong is warm and, well, has rapids. Many locals seem to chill, swim and maybe eat there, but there was a $1 foreigner charge though not sure how legit it was. The views of the countryside though are superb.
The Kampi dolphins are easily visible, though a charge of $7-9 is made, and this includes an hour boat tour to hunt them down. It actually feels like a hunt but the boatsmen are very careful not to get too close. The dolphins keep popping up but don’t jump out of the water, so are next to impossible to photograph. Worth a trip, and hopefully the money paid goes to their conservation.
As this is our last place in Cambodia, we bought a bus ticket to Pakse in Laos. The bus company sold the ticket but couldn’t tell us anything about it – apart from the bus is scheduled at 13:30 but get to the station at 12! The destination of Pakse isn’t mentioned on any paperwork or adverts, or even the ticket we were given. No Visa information was provided either so we’re still not totally sure….
So our last night in Cambodia and we’ll miss it. It is a lovely country, and apart from the odd couple of rogues the people are friendly and honest, and its a really great place to visit with some amazing sites. Probably much more to see off the beaten track than we’ve seen, as we seem to have stuck to the tourist trail somewhat, but overall it is much better than we originally anticipated.
See Cambodia review and summary here
See next installment here