Monday, May 16, 2011

Bamboo Bridge and Talking with Dolphins

This weekend was the King's birthday, a national holiday in Cambodia. So I packed my sunscreen and a book (The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh this time, I thought it was pretty mediocre but it had a couple of scenes set in Kratie where we were going) and headed out with three friends for an adventure. First we went to Kampong Cham, the third largest city in Cambodia according to Wikipedia. (Bonus points if you can name the two that are larger)

There isn't much of a tourism industry in Kampong Cham, the handful of obligatory western cafes along the river, and a few places to rent bicycles. The main attraction for foreigners is the Bamboo Bridge. This bridge looks pretty rickety, and leads to an unfairly picturesque island. There isn't much in the way of railings, and it is a little wider than an average car. The sound the bamboo makes as you ride across it is horrible and terrifying, but the bridge is strong enough for cars and motos to drive on as well.

The most interesting thing about this bridge? Every year it gets blown away in the storms that come with rainy season. And every year after that season is done, the people of Kampong Cham rebuild it. In between the island is only accessible by boat.

After spending a day in Kampong Cham charmed by its quietness, we headed further inland to Kratie. Where there are dolphins! Sadly, I have no pictures of dolphins; they surfaced by brief moments of times to quickly for my camera to catch. The Irrawaddy river dolphins aren't the attractive dolphins that we think of, the flipper dolphins. We watched them for an hour, brief glimpses against the gray of the Mekong river. Instead I offer you this picture of a dolphin statue.

And then back to Phnom Penh, five hours in a cramped minivan designed for twelve people but filled with sixteen and no air conditioning. Mildly worse than the bus ride there in which the women next to us spent most of her time dry heaving.