Kratie is a small riverside town in the northeast region of Cambodia. It has a very relaxed vibe, similar to Kampot. It has a few good places to eat and a market in the town center. The real attraction for me though was the chance to see the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong. There used to be around 2000 dolphins in the country but the numbers have gone down drastically after the Khmer rouge killed loads of them to feed their army. There are only around 80 left in the whole of Cambodia.

Instead of doing the customary tuk tuk and then a boat ride to the dolphin pool we decided to kayak there! Even though I cannot swim and i’m usually terrified of water I enjoyed kayaking in Ha Long bay and have been wanting to do it again ever since. Of course, I always make sure I have my life jacket on. I would wear 2 if I could.

We started the day at the kayaking center where they served us delicious homemade pumpkin bread for breakfast. We were then loaded at the back of a truck, along with our kayaks, for the 20km journey to Kampi. After 45mins of the bumpy ride we arrived at the starting point. Joel and I were on the same kayak and he sat at the back coz he was the stronger one and would be able to steer the kayak better. May be it was the beginners luck in Ha Long Bay or may be Joel and I make for terrible kayaking partners but we just could not manage to hold a straight line! We were supposed to follow the guide who was in the other kayak but most of the times we were around 100mts off. There was a lot of bickering and blaming each other for steering the kayak off course and then blaming the kayak itself but it was all in good humour. After 6kms, we stopped for a break at a small island where we were given a snack and some time to relax/swim.

A tiny island in the Mekong, perfect for a break half-way through.
A tiny island in the Mekong, perfect for a break half-way through.

After that we had another 6kms to go. The second half was tougher as we were surrounded by a floating forest so the river was flowing faster and the water was churning around us.

Beautiful floating forest in the Mekong, picture taken by a friend in the other kayak..
Beautiful floating forest in the Mekong, picture taken by a friend in the other kayak..

I had started to get scared at this point due to the tiny waves crashing against our kayak and making it rock. The guide didn’t help when he said that if we go too close to the trees our kayak could flip over! This was a major concern as Joel and I still couldn’t row in a straight line and we were constantly getting too close to the trees. A few times, when we realized we were getting too close Joel would start steering faster to get us away from the tree and all he ended up doing was making us crash into it faster! Silly man 🙂 One time, after we crashed, we tried to start rowing again and to follow our guide, instead we ended up doing a 360degree turn and having moved barely a few feet! 😀 Needless to say, there was a lot more bickering and “you stop it” “no you stop it” type of arguments. Every time I think of this trip I always double up with laughter thinking how funny we must have looked zig zagging (and bickering) our way around the river! LOL

That's Joel and me kayaking...we looks pretty happy despite all the bickering we were doing :)
That’s Joel and me kayaking…he looks pretty happy despite all the grief I was giving him 🙂

After all that we finally managed to reach the dolphin pool. My shoulders were achy and I was beginning to get a few blisters on my hand but I was super excited to see some dolphins! There are only about 20 in this pool and we saw quite a few of them just swimming lazily around the river and coming up for air often. It was just incredible to be sitting in a kayak in the middle of the river and looking at dolphins around us. It was also very peaceful (except when I was telling Joel off for splashing water with his oar or for drumming his fingers on the kayak) as there were just 2 kayaks out there. I was hoping the dolphins would jump around and play with each other but apparently they never do, at least not in this pool. I do want to seem more of them and see them up close, more of a reason to learn how to swim! The trip ended with us taking the super bumpy drive back to Kratie where we spent the day just chilling, eating and laughing at our kayaking “skills”.

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