The tarmac of Highway 6 is smooth and new. It even has a sense of familiarity with gum trees standing sentinel on either side of the road. Highway 7, heading north, on the other hand is narrow, pot holed with broken edges and bumper to bumper traffic. We were lucky to average 40kph. In the heat everyone was becoming agitated.
The secondary roads were a relief even though they tended to have dirt sections every now and again.
The landscape is dominated by the Mekong. It’s the heart and life of the country. Irrigation ditches stream off it like giant arteries, providing water for the rice paddies. Cows graze on the old stubble and water buffalo seem to be the basic beasts of burden if motorised contraptions are not available.
Over the 400k that we traveled to reach Kratie we saw rubber trees, a variety of fruit and it seems many of the villages specialties in different trades: carved stone Buddhist statues, wooden beds, tables and benches. The villages were predominantly Buddhist, but some areas were entirely Muslim.
In the villages and towns the shops and trade stalls are on the verge of the road. With bikes and cars still four abreast it becomes chaotic. The locals just seem to take it as it comes and slow appropriately when needed or just pull off the road. But with kids and dogs running everywhere we are concerned it will just be a matter of time before someone has a new bonnet emblem.
While the official currency of Cambodia is the Riel, all pricing is in USD, even out of the main tourist centres. The ATMs will dispense in either currency. This obviously provides stability to the currency, but tends to push up the prices. That said dinner out is costing us between USD8-10 for a main and beers or wine (alcohol is cheap) per person. Petrol about USD1.00 per litre, not that we are drinking it.
The other first world problem is that internet access is generally a challenge (hence lack of photos with my blogs), while mobile telephone coverage is good.
The day’s drive was just over 400k. With the temp climbing to the mid 30’s we were knackered by the time we arrived in Kratie at a bit past 1700 after setting out at 0800. It then took another hour to get from town, where we left the cars to Rajabori Village which was set up on a small island in the middle of the Mekong. We slept in tradition huts, that were decked out with in a French colonial influence – very sheik. The power swithched off at 2100, the insects were kept at bay with nets over the beds, except for the frogs that climbed into the bathrooms and toilets for a swim. Seemed to worry the girls most.
The island supports 300 families who work in the hotels and other lodges, fish the Mekong, farm the land and seem to be fairly self sufficient even owning a small portable timber mill to fulfil their housing needs. Everyone seems to own a new 125cc Honda motor cycle.