11.02.2013 - 13.02.2013
Country number six!
On Shannon's (my/Erin's sister) sage advice ("it was the worst journey of my life, but maybe because I had gangrene in my foot") we decided to break the bus journey between Don Det, southern Laos and Siem Reap, northwest Cambodia, in the riverside town of Kratie. As the crow flies, Don Det to Siem Reap is a couple of hundred kilometres, but to get there by bus (rather than crow) you have to travel in a massive loop because there are no direct roads. Quoted travel times varied wildly from 10 to 18 hours and we've learnt that generally you should go with the less optimistic estimate.
At 12:30pm we'd been travelling for 4.5 hours and had managed 21km (1km by boat and 20km by bus). We'd spent most of our time waiting in small roadside cafes for boarder crossing stamps and general visa admin. When we finally got on the road it was in a "cosy" minibus. Four people to row of three seats is standard for westerners. For locals they double that and literally have people, luggage and motorbikes hanging out the windows. We were very glad to be stopping in Kratie.
Kratie was notable for a large percentage of pyjama-clad women. We first spotted this phenomenon in Thailand. Occasionally the women (and children) serving you in restaurants would be wearing brightly-coloured and patterned (often with small cartoon animals) pyjamas. This was always in the evening so we didn't think it was that odd! In Laos the women tend to wear a sinh (a long slim-fitting wraparound skirt) and tend to look quite elegant, even when wearing a fleece or hoodie on their top-halves. But in Kratie about 50% of the women (working in the market, doing their shopping or riding mopeds through town) wear these crazy matching pyjamas, often combined with a large pattern sunhat and gloves! It is a sight to behold.
Other notable features of Kratie were:
- excellent tiny playful kittens in our guesthouse (happy to curl up and sleep in your pocket if encouraged). Picture to follow...
- disturbing/hilarious original artwork on our bedroom wall. The guesthouse was definitely not a brothel (we think). Picture also to follow...
- a few jolly restaurants/bars with nice Mekong views.
- various sightseeing tours/options that we didn't do. We mainly sat in bars (see above) and played backgammon.
Another minibus journey followed our one day stop in Kratie. We're now in Siem Reap waiting for Jo's mum (Elspeth or Ep for short) to arrive for a fortnight's holiday. We're in a lovely swanky hotel, five times the price of our Kratie accommodation, but still less than £10 each a night. Soon we'll be off to see the famous temples of Angkor. More to follow in our next post.