Mekong Island Adventure

2014-03-13

Arun Mekong Guesthouse

Kratie, Koh Trong Island, Cambodia

This was another surreal trip. I never seem to quite know what is happening. Even buying my tickets for the town of Kratie, turned out to be an experience, when I was sold two tickets for the same bus. Why? Confusion! It's perfectly understandable considering that I don't even know how to say “hello” in Kamur.

I asked my tuk-tuk driver to try to give away my extra ticket to some needy soul, but he returned and said that it could use it for the return trip to Kampong Cham. We shall see how that goes?

The bus ride was very uneventful. I guessed that 3 1/2 hours was not long enough for a bathroom break, since we didn't stop. We arrived in Kratie right in the middle of the day. I had booked a hotel on the island, and in fact had gotten several phone calls from somebody connected with the hotel–I guess?–but, I was not able to understand a word he said. I walked along the shore and couldn't see anything resembling a boat dock, but there were a zillion steep stairs leading down to a platform where there were a few rickety old boats. I reasoned that that might be the spot as there was nothing else in the immediate vicinity.

Tiny French fries with meat, oh my!

I called back the number that had called me. I plugged one ear and tried to understand what the broken English was saying, but it sounded something like I will come and get you in one hour. “Ok,” I shouted, as if the volume would make a difference. I walked back up the zillion stairs and looked for something to eat. I found a restaurant right across the street and ordered beef with potatos. What I got was barbecued beef chunks on a bed of tiny tiny French fries. I wasn't too disappointed.

Back down to the dock I went, but still no boat. I called and all I could hear was wait for me at the dock, so even though there was a very funky boat getting ready to go to the island I decided to wait. The woman taking money from the passengers was dressed in wool stocking, plastic clogs, leggings, a winter coat, a fleece hat, and a full face wrap, tried to get me to come, but I shook my head no, that I had someone coming for me. She seemed exasperated, but left without me.

One and a half hour later, ten phone calls, and there was still no boat. So when the well winterized lady arrived back with the old wooden boat, I shrugged my shoulders, smiled and said,” “tourist.”” At that point a French bicyclist was also trying to go across. He asked her how much. She said 2000, which is 50 cents, he replied don't try to rip me off lady I know it is 500! I thought, “Are you kidding me?,” but said nothing.

Arriving on the other side there were a sea of faces waiting on the sandy shore lines waiting on the sandy shore. One was smiling a little more than the others. “Arun Mekong Hotel,” I asked. He nodded and grabbed my bag. I tried to apologize for the whole lot of phone calls, but he didn't speak a word of English. He motioned for me to get on the back of a motorbike. Now that was an interesting quandary, because I had been making an unofficial study of passengers riding on the back of motorcycles and bicycles. Up to now I had only riden in tuk-tuk's. Even if the were three, or four or more on one bike, not one of them held onto the person in front of them. That didn't look safe, but I reasoned it was a cultural thing. I'll be damned if I was going to break tradition.

There was about a quarter of a mile of soft beach sand to cross before we hit the main island. There was a makeshift road of three 2×6 planks laid on the sand end to end. It was precarious and very narrow. The boards were not secured and they followed the ups and downs of the dune. He put my large suitcase on the tank, and I got on the back gripping as tightly as I could onto the seat. I could not believe how he was able to control this thing. We made it three quarters of the way, until we hit a particularly steep stretch. Now there was only one 2×8, and the bike slipped off into the soft sand. He struggled to get it back on to the plank, and thenpatting his sides, he motioned that I was to grip him around the waist. I guessed that I was either too heavy or just didn't have the balance.

When we got to dry land there was a concrete sidewalk that ran for probably 2 or 3 miles. It was just wide enough for two bike to pass. When we got to the hotel it was, let's say, more rustic than I thought it would be for $25. My room was on the second floor, and didn't have a private bath, even though I knew that I had in fact booked it that way. I tried to explain to the staff, two very meek teenage girls, but they didn't understand what I was saying. I asked them to call the manager; they dialed and gave the phone to me. Stranglely the manager understood me and I was moved to a downstairs room with bath. I actually preferred the room upstairs, but I said nothing.

2014-03-14

Arun Mekong Guesthouse

Kratie, mainland, Cambodia

1. Meeting with teachers and tuk-tuk driver, complete with spreadsheet comparing USA prices with Cambodia prices. A real learning experience for all.

2. Dolphin viewing

3. Palm milk and tiny dried frogs with tuk-tuk drivers friend

4. Visit with tuk-tuk drivers mother and father. Sorry, no picture.

5. Tea with uncle and family of tuk-tuk driver

6. Dinner, cheese and bacon on a baguette.

7. Back on the island, motorcycle driver stops at managers brothers house for drunken party.

8. Boy am I tired!

 

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