Me and Jess had a lovely week and a half together seeing the sights of Kratie, Stung Treng and Ratanakiri. Here are some of my highlights.
We started by cycling to visit the dolphins where we had a hour's boat ride up river to where the dolphins spend the rainy season. We saw loads (despite the sudden downpour) and a lot them came really close to the boat.
The river is beautiful at the moment. Even though it is a really dirty colour, it is really high so all the trees that normally sit on islands in the middle of the river are covered in water with just the tops of them popping out - it looks amazing.
The next day, we went cycling ( a bit of a theme of the holiday) around the island opposite Kratie town and then all the way to Chhlong, a district about 20km away (total of about 50km that day).
We got up early the next morning to drive the 3 hours by moto to Stung Treng province where Ingran lived. Ingran and Paul had prepared a lovely brunch for us of eggs, lentil burgers, baked beans and toast and then we set off again to see some sights of ST.
We visited Mekong Blue which is a silk factory that trains women from the provine to weave silk scarves. In the name of helping the local community, I may have bought myself a beautiful green silk scarf to remind me of Cambodia.
After that we visited the Bird Sanctury where no birds actually live but it did have a very nice cafe overlooking the Mekong. Me and Jess showed our adventurous sides by taking kayaks out onto the Mekong which is actually very fast at this time of year while the boys sat and drank coffee. Luckily near the bank there is no current though Jess did get a bit over excited in her explorations of 'let's just see what happens if I do this' and ended up having to paddle frantically to fight her way back upstream.
The next day we headed off in a boat again to see a waterfall on the Loas border. After an hour's drive from Ingran's house we arrived at the border, climbed on board and set off upriver again. The river got progressively more rough and strong and at some points we started to move backwards. At one point there was a quick scramble for life jackets which was a little unnerving. We later learned that the boatmen don't like to do this trip in the rainy season and had had to do a trial run the day before to show the younger boatman the way. Oh and last year around this time a boat had capsized. Luckily we found out all these things after we arrived back on dry land!
One of my favourite moments of the trip was just as we were setting off for Ratanakiri. We'd finished breakfast, piled everything on the moto and then it wouldn't start. I tried a few times, breakfast owner man tried a few times, nothing happened. A very nice man who was eating his breakfast but who may also have been the local mechanic then came over to have a go. About 15 minutes later, the engine was roaring again and all it had taken was a spanner, a bolt, some sandpaper and a ....wait for it.....toothpick! Amazing.
Jess waiting on the road directly behind the moto so that when it finally roared into life, the exhaust backfired all over her. Very funny!
We cycled 60 km on the first day in Ratanakiri on the very well built road to Vietnam. The man we hired the bikes from insisted it was flat all the way. Having driven it by moto last November, I insisted it was very hilly. Jess, having discovered that some of my statements may be slightly inaccurate, didn't believe me but here she is, cycling up a big fat hill.
Our destination was the amazing gem mines in Borkeo
Did I mention that the supposed 'new' road to Ratanakiri was shockingly bad? It was pure rock in some parts, filled with countless potholes, muddy and slippery. I was pretty impressed with my moto skills for the four hours that it took us to get there. I think Ratanakiti has been well and truely duped; just wait until they find out what the new road to Mondulkiri looks like.
After our road trip it was time to head to PP for Ingran's last weekend. It was a great party with lots of the September group there to see him off. I can't believe nearly a year has gone by since we first arrived and the second person from our group has left.
All in all it was a lovely holiday and it was great showing off my beautiful new home to Jess (who loved everything in a very positive, enthusiastic way so the bar has been set pretty high for any future visitors!).