23.12.2016 - 24.12.2016 35 °C
Friday, December 23 and Saturday December 24
On Friday, we travelled to Kratie, a small town with a very decrepit hotel. The highlight was going out on the Mekong River in the late afternoon to view dolphins. They weren't jumping very enthusiastically but would surface for a couple of seconds and give us a thrill. Just before we left, two came right up to our boat to greet us! We truly enjoyed the peaceful hours on the river.
We met Santa on our way into our restaurant. No Christmas music in the streets here, though.
Behind our hotel, right outside our window, a loudspeaker played what we can only assume was Cambodian music for hours on end. To us, it sounded like random notes on a pentatonic scale, like mind control music from a horror show. I can't imagine what it would be like to live with that music for hours every day!
Saturday morning, we heard a Moslem call to prayer at 4:30 am and then at 5, the crazy music began. We wondered if it was to get people up for the day. It played for half an hour, stopped till 6, then started again. Some of our group who went out for a walk thought that it might be music for a funeral.
Saturday was another long travel day: 7 hours over quite rough roads in northern Cambodia (some paved, some dirt) and across the border into Laos. Sambo said we would get a free bum massage today!!
We learned that local people pronounce the name of the country as 'Lao' (without the final 's' sound). In Cambodia, many homes had tarps spread out on the ground with rice drying. A few farmers are still harvesting rice but most rice fields are already cut. Along the roads, it's common to see wagons and trucks transporting large bags of rice.
One bus dropped us off on the Cambodian side of the border, then we had to walk 300 m. or so across the border and board another bus after we had gone through Immigration on both sides of the border. The buildings were magnificent but there seemed to be very little traffic across the border; we didn't see any vehicles crossing during the hour that we were there, just tourists crossing on foot.
We finally reached our destination in mid-afternoon, a lovely guest house on the banks of the Mekong River. Our guide rented bicycles for us so that we could ride around the island to see how people live. One thing we like about the G Adventure tours is the variety of opportunities for low-cost sport activities that get you into close contact with local people.
On our 16 km tour around the island, we saw water buffalo, rice paddies, a rice wine distillery (that gave us free samples!), cows wandering freely, cocks used for cockfights, and a palm sugar producer that has been in business for 40 years.
At age 80, this man still climbs the sugar palm trees daily.
Along the way, we were frequently greeted by kids shouting 'Sabaidee' [Hello]. Although the physical exertion was demanding, especially in the intense sun, we felt a good tired at the end of the trip. Donna immediately went for a full body traditional Lao massage (60 min. for about 12 USD) to stretch out the tight muscles. Ahhhh!!!
Our fellow travellers have been taking advantage of these massages each evening (sometimes for the feet and legs, sometimes whole body). The spas have about 6-8 beds lined up in a room and the masseurs/masseuses work on your body with your socks and shoes off but the rest of you fully clothed. The massages are very effective to get out all the kinks and knots!!