Today is Sunday and we decide to take a day off. That is to say we check the tourist guide and local sources to find out what sights we want to see today. Kratie is famous for the fresh water dolphins that can be observed in the Mekong. And there are a number of pagodas, of course.
We started with an extended breakfast. I was lucky yesterday to catch both the weekend edition of the Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post. They have decent café at this place close to where the boats approach, at riverside.
Later we go to the market. This is the market.
This is among the great many things that can be bought here.
We spend quite some time with shopping. What I get is a hammock made from modern fiber and supposedly resistant against mosquitoes. And we buy some stuff for the Phnong woman who is still in the hospital with her children.
Later we rent two moto bikes with drivers for $15 a day each. Then we start the trip. We head north to see Sambor, which is the site of a thriving pre-Angkorian city. The place is locally famous for largest wat in Cambodia with 108 columns. I take a number of pictures on the flight.
Party signs are still all over the place, not just here but seemingly anywhere in the country. This one has the logo of the CPP, which is the ruling party and just won the election.
Reaksa on the back of his moto.
This is when we pass one of the few towns on the way.
Once in a while, of course, we encounter one of those white Toyota Camry.
Children, jumping from the bridge into the water.
The landscape is very green and the soil appears to be fertile.
Those are wealthy houses close to another town.
Sambor, the town close to the pagoda we are visiting. Again, there was a flourishing city in this place before but nothing seems to remain from those times.
This is the temple. There was a 19th century pagoda at this place before but this one is entirely modern. It is located about 15 km north of Kratie.
There is a small temple close by made of concrete. Many colorful pictures are painted on the walls and ceiling. Apparently this was made possible by donations from private persons. On any painting there is a bold signature including the name of the generous donor as well as the amount he or she has donated. In some cases the signature includes the nationality of the generous person and where this is the case it says “USA” in Latin letters. Like here. The donation is $85.
There are all sorts of animals on the compound and apparently they like each other.
There is a huge sign outside the pagoda saying that Prime Minister Hun Sen has contributed significantly to the restoration of this pagoda.
This is inside.
Those are the music instruments.
Colorful paintings all over the place.
For some reason people in this pagoda maintain some sort of zoo. However, in a country in which most people are poor, animals seemingly cannot expect privileged treatment.
This is a part of the compound of the pagoda.
The timber upfront is what used to be the pillars of this pagoda. However, they were replaced by concrete ones.
We leave again with the motos to the Sambor town to have some lunch.
After we have lunch we drive to the place where it is possible to watch the freshwater dolphins. We passed the place earlier and are now driving back the same way.
This is when we pass the place from where we went by boat to the Phnong village the other day.
Some people’s occupation around here is building boats. Obviously, there is steady demand since there are many rivers but few roads or bridges around here.
We are driving along the Mekong River.
Then we reach the dolphin place. In order to see the dolphins, one has to buy tickets for the boat, which is about $4 for the foreigner. Although it is Sunday there are not many tourists.
Those freshwater dolphins are called Irrawaddy dolphin (trey pisaut). The species is endangered throughout Asia with some isolated populations in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
According to one of my guide books there are about 60 dolphins left on this stretch of the Mekong River.
After we spend some time and negotiate the price we get on the boat. There is another guy, who is traveling alone. It turns out that he is from Germany. Not only that, but from the eastern part, where I come from, too. So we can talk for some time in German, which did not happen to me for a long time.
While passing the Mekong River we are moving through what looks like a Cambodian landscape which is flooded. This landscape has some charm to it. It is rainy season and there is plenty of water in the river. On occasion the current is quite rapid. According to the guide book the height of the wet season is the best time of the year to see the dolphins.
The guy to the right is the German.
This is the dolphin place and another boat is already here. People on board are waiting with their cameras for the dolphins to emerge while we arrive with some noise.
We tie the boat to one of the trees in the water and turn up the engine. After only a few minutes we see the back fin of one of the dolphins. This seems to be quite a huge animal. However, we do not get to see more than the backs of those creatures.
What is worse is I tried the function of my camera with which I can take pictures more quickly. However, I did not realize that the exposure time was set too low. So I messed up all those pictures.
Although this is certainly a beauty- and peaceful place there is not much change and we leave after some time.
The next place we want to visit is Phnom Sombok, which is an active wat on a small hill, which is situated about 10 north of Kratie. So we get back on the motos and drive there.
This is on the way.
This is the gate to Phnom Sombok on the road from Kratie to Kampi.
This mountain has two peaks. There is a small pagoda like building on each of them. The peak to the west is called Phnom Proh (mountain of men) and the one to the east Phnom Srey (mountain of women). Interestingly, Phnom Srey is higher. This is at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to those mountains.
We meet this man on the way up to Phnom Proh. I believe he is very old. He is the first person I meet who wears a monk like robe which is white. However, I did not find out what the meaning is.
This is the pagoda on top of Phnom Srey, which was build in 1938.
This is inside. There are beautiful paintings on the walls and the ceiling, but in bad shape.
In the background is the Mekong River.
Those are pictures on the ceiling and walls of a pavilion which is located between the two mountains. This is the horror evil people can expect after their bad lives.
This is at the bottom of the stairs which lead up to Phnom Proh. One can hear the voices of many women singing monotonous songs. By this time it is getting somewhat darker and it is about to rain. So I set a long exposure time.
This is when we arrive on top of the mountain. In this pagoda is a good number of singing women, most of them elderly. Those dogs are shouting and barking. I feel that we are disturbing their prayer and we leave quickly.
It starts raining more when we arrive at the motos. It is about 5 km from here to Kratie town. So we get on the motos. The rain stops after a few minutes but there are still dark clouds all over the place. We hurry to reach Kratie.
By the time we reach Kratie it is very dark and stormy. And it starts to rain again. However, we still want to see Wat Roka Kandal, which is a pagoda from the late 18th century and one of the few pagodas left which is build from wood.
So we pass the center of Kratie and make it to Roka Kandal a few km south. By the time we reach here we are already wet.
Interestingly, this pagoda was rebuilt with assistance from a trade association from Germany (Handelskammer Koblenz). I heard it is possible to spend the night here .
This is inside.
We spend some time here and wait for the rain to become weaker. By the time we leave it is entirely dark. We ride back to the center of Kratie to have a fruit shake at riverside.
We decide to go back to our accommodations to have a bath and to meet later for diner.
This is on the roof of the hotel, with the Mekong River in the background.
Later we meet in one of Reaksa’s former student’s house. The guy is the missionary I mentioned earlier. I spend some time talking to his friends who are not as fundamentalist as he is. Later we eat.
While we eat we watch a video of the organization he is working for, which is Seven Day Adventist. It turns out to be a documentation of the great achievements of the organization and the high morale of its members. It comes along as some sort of documentation but in fact borders manipulation, given the low educational standard of the local population.
Later I leave to the hotel. We need to get up early tomorrow to travel back to Phnom Penh.