A Travellerspoint blog

Leaving Laos for a Holiday in Cambodia

sunny 28 °C

Yesterday we headed for the beach on Don Khon. We'd been there the day before with the kids and they were yearning to go back again. In true Irish style we brought our ingredients for a picnic, some bread rolls, a couple of tins of tuna and some crisps. As it was our last day on the 4000 Islands we decided that we'd try and make it out to catch a glimpse of the rare Irrawaddy dolphins, an endangered species of freshwater dolphin. We enquired at a beachfront restaurant and the hostess had much trouble waking one of our potential boatmen. After some haggling we set off on two boats - Caroline, Paddy & Rosie on one boat, myself, Harry & Joe on the other - with one life jacket between the lot of us. Our boat was steered by the sleepy boatman whilst the guy at the rudder in the other boat looked infinitely more awake. After a few minutes in the water I looked behind to see Harry as the newly installed navigator on our boat. Our guy thought it was a great idea to let an 11 yea old steer the boat and as it turned out he was pretty competent once he'd gotten his left sorted from his right. After about ten minutes we pulled up at a pier in Cambodia. Apparently the dolphin shy away from the noise of engines so this is the best spot to view them (once you've given the nice Cambodian people $4 for the privilege of course). As it turned out we saw quite a bit of them, it wasn't Florida Seaworld by any means, these dolphins simply surface from deep water pools to get some air and then go back under. Nevertheless it was a worthwhile experience.

On our last night in Laos the lights went out. The electricity stopped at some point during the night which made for a slightly sweaty few hours sleep with no fan working in the rooms. This morning we caught the boat back to the mainland and once again we were on our way to Cambodia (officially this time). The VIP bus was a sleeper bus that was making a twelve hour journey to Siem Reap but thankfully we were only on it for a few hours until we came to a place called Kratie. Once again we are on the banks of the Mekong river but in a very different country. The landscape is very different to that which we experienced over the last thirty days in Laos. This area is flat, not unlike the Irish midlands but without the Mullingar or Athlone accents and with rubber plantations and evidence of slash and burn farming everywhere. We'd been told that Cambodia was different and guess what, the advice was correct! We've had to adapt to the new currency and language in the space of a few hours. Whilst like the Laos they are a Khmer people, simple things like hello and thank you are very different.

My first impression of Cambodia is really good. We took a stroll around Kratie and the local folk are most welcoming and friendly. The womenfolk dress in much brighter attire than their Laos neighbours and everyones command of English is much better also. When we got off the bus we were badgered by representatives of several hotels to stay at their place - something that never happened during our time in Laos. The standard of accommodation here is beyond all my expectations but tonight again we experienced an electrical blackout. You forget what its like to be in complete darkness on the main street of a town, even though I have similar memories of it happening in 1980's Ireland. I guess at home you know where the candles and torch are.

Kratie is another town in South East Asia whose heyday ended back in the 1940's. There's evidence of French colonial architecture but it has faded in its glory. The switch to Cambodia also means a switch in my drink of choice. In Laos there is pretty much only one option, the ubiquitous Beer Lao. I developed quite an affinity to it over the last thirty days, especially the darker, stronger version of the brew. Here in Cambodia I'm spoilt for choice - Angkor Beer, Cambodia Beer, Anchor Beer - the list goes on. As I write I'm supping from a small bottle of Angkor Extra Stout - a nice dark beer that's not unlike other stouts I've tried over the years but a little stronger at 8% in volume. An acquired taste by any standards I reckon.

We were a bit sad to leave Laos as it was a wonderful experience but we're quite looking forward to our new adventure in Cambodia. In a restaurant tonight we spoke to a Cambodian lady who was back here on holiday after 32 years in San Francisco. Her story was quite amazing and intriguing in equal parts, we're going to have to brush up on our Cambodian history to put her story in context. We truly know very little about the countries we are visiting and with what little I do know I'm not sure I'll ever fully understand the context of it all. Atrocities have been committed here well within living memory but you wouldn't think it to look and talk to the people. Our adventure continues.

Posted by goldenmaverick 07:57 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia dolphins kratie

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Sounds like it a lot easier to go from the 4000 islands than it was for us when we did it. Quite liked Kratie but only stayed one night when we were there, wish we had made it another one. Enjoy Beer Lao is still available, make the most of it;-)

by Richie

Hi guys, sounds like all's going well. Still loving the blog posts, they're my second read of a night (after Nicholas Roche's diaries of course). Keep them coming.
If you're looking for some Cambodian context, I've read 'First they killed my father' and 'Survival in the Killing Fields'. Both really good and give you a great insight into the history - SITKF is the more hard hitting of the two. Fairly gritty stuff by all accounts, worth a download.
All the best,

by Declan

Hi All, How wonderful it all looks. Many's the cup of pissy PCI coffee was had Caroline in order to clear the decks for your magical trip. Lovely to see all the pics, you all look very natural in your new roles as adventurers and explorers and well done for finding a good cup of coffee. I like Ciaran's new desk in the cave - could I get a job in that office?
As I texted to you last week, Ger and I have taken the plunge and are taking 8 months off to travel ourselves. We begin in Clare Island in Mayo next Friday, Bangkok 1st of Sept, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma,India, Australia, Hong Kong and Clanbrassil Street. Thank you for all the inspirational chat's and continue to enjoy your wonderfull journey - 'not the psychotherapeutic one', THE REAL ONE LOL - David

by David Staunton

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