Kratie ~ Freshwater Dolphins in the Mekong, Rapids and a Painted Temple

In between Phnom Penh and the Laos border in eastern Cambodia, sits a slowly developing city with slight charm. The city is only two parallel streets with about 7-10 connectors. There is a small market, outdoor night BBQ and fruit shakes. The sun sets over the Mekong like a glowing pumpkin into a green bath. There is a glut of cheap guesthouses for about 6-10 dollars. See here for review of the food at U-Hong Guesthouse. I stayed at Mouradourm, and he (Hap) hooked me up with a bus ticket to Laos that included all border transfers and boat travel and a dolphin tour the next day. The room wasn’t very clean, but had a good bed. The next day we went to see the freshwater dolphins. There is an estimated 80 dolphins left in the Mekong and they like to lazily congregate in a deep pool. There is no playing or interest in the boats, they just swim around belching from blowholes as you try to snap a picture of them mid-breach. It’s still cool seeing dolphins anytime, anywhere.

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They have Beluga Whale shaped heads.

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After the expected anti-climax of the dolphins, we popped back on the motorbike for a long drive past the clapboard houses and jungle of Cambodia, and reached a rather nondescript temple. Inside was a different story. I am well acquainted with the mythology of Christianity and probably could tell you the 12 Stations of the Cross and recite the Beatitudes and the 10 Commandments, but I don’t know much about true practicing Buddhists or Hindus. These pictures told fascinating stories that I didn’t know, but am happy to invent.

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Don’t overeat.

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Don’t run naked with wolves.

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Don’t spy on sleeping women.

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Don’t forget the Buddha.

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Drink the wine of flying people.

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Don’t piss off the Goddess of the Sea!

It was beautiful inside this temple. Every inch of wall and ceiling space was used in paintings such as these. A large gold Buddha sat restfully in a central position. There were card readers divining fortunes for the bowed down believers. Some carefree kids were having New Year’s water fights. It was a good surprise.

We had a small soup lunch, chugged some water, and our motorbike took us over shaky bridges, dirt roads and scattered rocks. We stopped at the Mekong rapids where a shanty town has arisen on the banks to provide a picnic area for river dwellers. Food and drinks are sold and hammocks provided for a small (2US$) fee. I gently fell asleep swaying to the hammock’s rhythm and the pulse of the river while arguing with myself about why I can’t just relax and enjoy something in the moment and stop worrying.

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