Kompong Cham turned out to be a fairly small and uninspiring town on the Mekong, so that’s why we hadn’t heard of it! Getting off the bus we met a German girl called Karoline who was heading in the same direction as us, so we all decided to set off together for a few days. The prettiest part of the town was the riverside, so we sat there for a beer and got an early night.
Kompong Cham was only ever a pit stop, so the next morning we carried on to Kratie, further up the Mekong. Kratie turned out to be a much nicer and more exciting little town! Wanting to make the most of the day, the three of us hopped on a little ferry (a small wooden boat) over to Koh Trong, a rural sandy island in the middle of the Mekong. We took bicycles and cycled around the whole island. You could have been 100 years back in time (except the concrete road), it was covered in lush green rice paddys, wandering chickens and buffalo and cow pulled carts. We explored the riverbank in search of Cantors Giant Softshelled Turtles but with no luck.
We stopped for a drink as the sun went down and in doing so missed the last ferry back. Stumbling around the river bank in the dark, getting muddy and trying to help a fisherman get his boat out of said mud, we managed to find someone willing to take us back to Kratie on his boat, of course for a ‘stupid tourist’ inflated fee!
The next day, after a very warm night, we had a tuk tuk arranged and we met our driver, Soda, bright and early. A lovely and interesting man, he seemed to be friends with everyone we passed and turned out to be the French teacher at the local secondary school. Apparently, there are no French lessons on a Monday, hence his tuk tuk moonlighting!
We had a full day tour booked and our first stop was Kampi, for a short boat ride to the centre of the Mekong, to spot Irrawaddy River Dolphins. We were lucky enough to be the first boat of the day, getting ahead of the tourist crowd, and we had seen several of the beautiful and critically endangered dolphins from the shore, even before setting foot in the boat. Out on the water we saw even more, our driver being excellent at spotting them and using his engine less than all the other boats so we didn’t scare them off. Amazing! Sadly, the pictures are all on Abby’s camera so we can’t get them at the moment, so have a look here.
The rest of the day comprised the 100 pillar wat at Sambor and the Turtle Conservation Centre (that’s where they were hiding), which was interesting as a place to see the turtles, but not the greatest environment for them even though they have the best intentions. Then we headed on to the hilltop temple at Sambok (lots of steps, lots of monkeys!) and stopped for some sticky rice with coconut, steamed inside a bamboo cane with haricot beans. An unexpectedly tasty (if stodgy!) treat. To cap it all off we watched the sunset on the rooftop bar of the Silver Dolphin with a beer. Lovely!