Off the Beaten Track
During an early morning stroll past the Old Market area of Siem Reap, I met a young woman setting up her stall for the days trading.
She told me that she was a student from the Mekong River town of Kratie who worked three days a week in Siem Reap and went home to school at the same town for the remainder of the week.
After being conjured to be her first customer of the day she proceeded to tell me about her town and what it had to offer. It must have been a convincing story because one week later I was boarding a river boat in Phnom Penh to travel up the Mekong River to Kratie.
The slow boat started the journey up the turbid coloured Mekong River as it is during the rainy season. About 10 kilometres up the river the boat cruised past the long island of Koh Pach and observed communities and also a large temple. In the dry season the island is popular weekend retreat with Phnom Penh residents as it has a large sandy beach area for them to enjoy.
The boat stopped at the town of Kampong Cham where some of the local villagers disembarked. The opportunity was taken by the rest of the travellers to head into the local market, where we were introduced to a local delicacy. Vendors were quickly on hand to offer their trays of cooked spiders. A local traveller said that the cooked spiders were the areas candy treat and after sampling a selection I would have to agree with him.
The inland areas around Kampong Cham are the only sites in Cambodia where it is possible to catch the black ground spiders. One noticeable feature about this river side town is the strong French influence in the architecture of the building and homes. The whole area is maintained in a good condition without the areas of decay seen in the other towns.
Once back on board and underway the boat passed under the only bridge on the Mekong River in Cambodia. The appearance of this man made structure seemed in complete contrast to the nature of the river. This two laned bridge links Phnom Penh with the remote eastern provinces of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri. After a relaxing trip following the winding course of the river, the boat berthed at its pier in Kratie and the passengers went their separate ways. It is a small town dominated by its market place with some guesthouses around it. The rivers front housed a number of small beer stalls, all of which offered a great selection of local dishes.
While Kratie gives the appearance of a town you pass through on the way to somewhere else, the towns treasure is its portrayal of Cambodian everyday life off the beaten tourist track. Its relative isolation and relaxed pace of life allows the tourist to talk with the locals and in a small way integrate into the local lifestyle albeit for a brief period.
Fish from the Mekong River for Sale at Morning Market, Kra-tie
Baskets of Fruit and Vegetables at Morning Market, Kra-tie
Shutters on Old Building, Kra-tie
Where would you like to go next?A day in Phnom Penh, the capital of the kingdom.
A day in Sihanoukville, the beach town of Cambodia.
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