Kratie and the Ratanakiri

On 27 April 2014 by From elephants to kangaroos

Before leaving for Laos, I decided to stop by the north of Cambodia along the Mekong Delta and the Ratanakiri.

IMG_3372My first stop was therefore made ​​in Kratie after 14h bus / minivan and many adventures on the road from Siem Reap. Not really knowing what there is to see in the area, I decided to go with 2 other people in a tuk tuk for the day.
We head first to Kampi, picnic place for Cambodian quite unexpected. Kind of floating houses on the Mekong and very similar, with hammocks inside to rest and food vendors everywhere. Opportunity to swim too! A unique and friendly atmosphere to discover! Then steering a boat ride on the Mekong for exploring the Irrawaddy dolphins. These are dolphins with a very different heads of those that I have been used to see. They do not jump so it is difficult to see their head / body just on the surface of the water. But this ride is very relaxing and pleasant to observe these peaceful animals. End of the day with Sambok hill. Above, just 3 pagodas and a nice view on the Mekong.

IMG_3434Going the next day to the region of Ratanakiri in Banlung city, I had heard for some ethnic villages around. Again after 7 hours in a minivan with 27 people inside instead of 14, I landed here in this little town. A large central market, a few guesthouses in the center rather shabby, few locals who speak English, some restaurants. I check in to a GH but I do not like it. So I start looking for another place to book for the next day and find on the way a day trip in motobike. I discovered at the same time an adorable Cambodian to talk to, others who play billiards in the middle of a road, normal…
The next morning , so I go with my guide Sat in a motorbike to explore the surroundings. I ‘m used normally to visit by myself but I could not see land in small villages alone, without being able to understand or speak with them, and I did not want to intrude. And seen the paths that we take, I ‘m not even sure I would have found my way!
Briefly, the day begins with a visit to two waterfalls Katieng and Kachang. On the road, we meet a group of peasants who sat on the floor talking with people of a company. Sat explains to me that the Prime Minister of Cambodia was elected thanks more to corruption than through votes and he then sold the land to the Chinese for money. The villagers will be evicted from their land despite the trees and plantations. Their houses will be razed and they have nowhere to go. So they sit to show to these men in suits, who are actually part of the company that bought the land, that they are here to discuss with them (but in vain if I understand because they are anyway going to decimate all).

IMG_3499Back on the road to the Katieng waterfall. 10m high, it is pretty cool to watch. Then we see the Kachang one which is nice and has the distinction of hosting a suspension bridge (moving darn) which where you can observe the cascade. You can also swim. We then went to see the minority villages with Kalai village and minority Kreong. In this minority, the whole family lives in a big house but when the girls reach the age of 10, a small house is built so she could live alone and thus find her husband. Yes, there, people get married at around 13-15 years and at 20 years old when they already have a family of 3 children! It then passes through the village of Romyool hosting the same minority.

IMG_3570After lunch, we see Bokeo mines and its workers. The road to reach is beautiful in nature, small mountains on the horizon, beautiful plantations. Then all of a sudden, Sat turns right onto a small road , crosses the forest and then arrives at the famous miners at work. Quite surprised to see a tourist arrival, I’m happy to be accompanied by my guide that can do the translation, ask them my questions and more. I then discovered this dangerous business: they work in teams of 2, the job is to dig a cylindrical hole 20m deep, the famous gems lying between 11 and 20m. Should be dug earth and sort then. The work is very dangerous since the person who has no protection down to lower (it is also not uncommon for the person dies after the collapse of land on him or after a fall during the descent / climb). Once down, a person stays up and down and back buckets tirelessly. Believe me, from what I saw, it is a very stressful job especially with the current heat in Cambodia. Yes but here, if they find the right stone with the right size, it can yield $ 4,000 which is an incredible sum for them and their families , so the risk is worth it. So, even the children are put to work to help the family … Another life lesson that I do not forget!
The day ends with the Phnom village and the Tampuon minority where I met such an old lady trying to weave his scarves 100% handmade with no machine. Each scarf asked one week of work and she sells them for $5 … Quite a job for this price!

IMG_3519The last day in Cambodia approaches and so I go to the volcanic lake which is surrounded by the jungle. This gives it a certain charm and above all there reigns a real tranquility that distinguishes good from the fast life of Phnom Penh for example. I‘m invited by Cambodian to drink with them (I refuse kindly the beer at 9:30 am) and share some of my experience. Then it‘s time to go to Stung Treng along the Mekong to reach Laos.

Here is how to end my trip to Cambodia. About 3 weeks spent there, discover unmissable people and areas, remote corners that show another image of the country. Yet beautiful encounters, surprises, new discoveries

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