The Mekong Discovery Trail. Happy People and an interesting Ferry Ride.

Mekong Discovery Trail-2877Having finished the Mondulkiri Trek, my next stop would be Kratie,  a sleepy town by the Mekong. The town has not a whole lot going on. Most people just stop for a day and head either North towards Laos or South to Phnom Phnom Penh. However, I heard that the surrounding area was supposed to be really beautiful. My plan was to go on a bike again and explore the region for a day. The regional government developed a very interesting tourism program called the Mekong Discovery Trail. It consists of several loops and trails, short to very long, which you can do by motorbike or bicycle. It’s aim is to opening up some of the more remote stretches of the Mekong River to community based tourism and to support local communities.

I picked a route which would take me along the Mekong for a day, including two river crossings by ferry. I started in Kratie and the road was nicely paved and good to drive. After a few kilometers I arrived at the first ferry crossing. To my surprise it was a proper car ferry and and just as I arrived, the ferry got unloaded ready for the next crossing. Perfect timing. I boarded the boat, paid and waited for our departure. It was a nice day, sunny and warm, and I was anxious to make it to the other side which was supposed to be less developed and rugged.

On the first stretch of the trip. Already very scenic.

On the first stretch of the trip. Already very scenic.

Taking the Mekong Ferry South of Kratie to the other side.

Taking the Mekong Ferry South of Kratie to the other side.

I arrived and started to drive along the Mekong. It wasn’t a real road but rather a bicycle trail. The riding was interesting and I passed beautiful scattered houses on stilts. It was very idyllic and what became more and more evident was the friendliness and warmth of the people. Literally every 10 meters I got a hello or people waving at me. It felt, like not very many people go along this road as I was a big attraction. every once in a while I stopped to take the beautiful scenery and once I did, I was usually surrounded by a screaming and wild horde of kids.

One of the wild hordes.

One of the wild hordes.

Ban Life at its best.

Ban Life at its best.

The Mekong, my steady companion.

The Mekong, my steady companion.

I left the bicycle trail since its condition became to worse to ride it. The next kilometers I went down a dirt road, which took me through a serious of little villages. The phenomenon just continued there. People were cheering at me, smiling, waving and shouting things. It started to ride one armed because I basically had to wave back all the time. Fascinating was, that not only the kids were open and friendly but also the adults. Usually they are a bit more reserved but there it seemed they were just thrilled to see a white guy on a motorbike coming through.
To top things off, all of the villages and the scenery by the road were just picture perfect. Nice houses, palm trees, oxcarts and the mighty Mekong by the side with scattered little islands in the middle of it. The atmosphere was great and I didn’t want to stop riding. I think I didn’t stop smiling during the whole trip.


It got late and I hadn’t even reached the ferry point to cross the river again. I got a little worried and hit the gas. I came to another little village and got stopped by local guy. He mentioned something about crossing the river and that I should follow him. Great, finally the ferry port and not too late, I figured. I then found out, that there is no car ferry like there was upriver. It is only small longboats the fisherman use and this guy offered me ride across. I was a little surprised but quickly accepted his offer because it dark and I still had to make about 40 kilometers to get back to Kratie. I drove down to the beach and we both lifted my motorbike into his small boat. It was a very unstable and wobbly business. I said a quick prayer and we took off. We were chugging across the Mekong with the sunset in our backs and I actually enjoyed it a lot. The guy was laughing a lot and I think it was a special boat ride for him as well. After about 10 minutes, we arrived at the other shore and unloaded my bike. I rode back in the dark and made it safely to Kratie.

Farewell from my captain after an interesting boat ride.

Farewell from my captain after an interesting boat ride.

Last thoughts …
Wow, what an experience. I did a few bike tours already but the atmosphere during this short trip was just perfect. I haven’t experienced so much friendliness before. If I would have had the time, I would have done a longer trip around the area and maybe done a home stay. The Mekong Discovery Trail is a great concept and it is very easy to do. It is surprising that apparently not very many people do it. For me it was another highlight in Cambodia and it is definite recommendation for anyone visiting Cambodia.

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Categories: Cambodia, Motorbike | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “The Mekong Discovery Trail. Happy People and an interesting Ferry Ride.

  1. Wow, it looks like you’ve done yet another amazing ride. What a great way to get off the beaten path and to see the lives of locals in such an unexplored part of Cambodia. I am enjoying following along on your journey!

    • Hey Tali, thanks for your feedback. It was a great trip and it is definitely recommendable. Venturing off the beaten path is definately more rewarding than sticking to the tourist spots. It is usually not even difficult to do so. I also have to say, that besides amazing landscapes and the outdoors the encounters with the locals have been the essence of this journey. Thanks again for your feedback, I really appreciate that. Greetings, Philipp

  2. What a fabulous detour you went on. Sounds a real adventure.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hey Chili, thanks for your feedback. It was a detour but actually it wasn’t that adventurous. Often it doesn’t take much to venture off the beaten path it is very rewarding. The Mekong Discovery Trail is definitely a recommendation. Do you also like to explore the rather non touristy things when you are abroad? Greetings, Philipp

  3. Fantastic photos. Like you say, ‘picture perfect’ and I just love the photos of the children. Their smiles really shine to show you how much they enjoyed seeing you. Some of these photos in this post look like travel brochure images.

    • Philipp Dukatz

      Hi Victoria, great that you like the pictures. It was so easy to get good pictures on that day. Not only did I enjoy taking them but the opportunities were just around every bend of the road I took. The people were also so friendly that I just wanted to stop everywhere. Again the time was way to less but I am thankful tat had the opportunity to discover this part of Cambodia. Thanks again for your encouraging feedback. Best regards, Philipp

  4. Pingback: The Mekong Discovery Trail: A Cambodian eco-journey | MF Holidays | Free Holiday Advice | Asia Holiday Information

  5. Hi Phillip, great post!

    There seems to be little information about the trial online. Is it a case of being given a guidebook and finding accomodation with a blue sign, and paying for this, food and drink yourself on the way? How much did it cost relative to travelling elsewhere? I’m thinking of cycling around Kratie for three days as I would like to do a home stay in Cambodia but I am 25 year old female on my own with a limited budget (long term trip). I cycled around Angkor and while realivity fit, found it much harder due to the heat. I’ll be cycling early March. Also, is there somewhere to store your backpack or does this come too?

    Another option is to go straight to 4000 island form Siem Reap before I head to Phohn Pen to pick up my Vietnam visa, but I think this may involve paying for a Laos Visa and then paying for another Cambodian one. Maybe it’s not worth it?

    If you have any tips you wouldn’t mind sharing with me, you can contact me via my blog http://www.livelifelovecake.com

    Many thanks,

    Helen

    • Hi Ellen,
      lots of questions but I will try to shed some light on this:

      1. Information
      In Krati there is professional tourism office which focuses on the Mekong Discovery trail. I didn’t check back with them but it looked legit and it was said that they also arrange accommodation for you if interested. Those would be authentic homestays.

      2. Food and Drink
      Yeah, that you would have to get along the way. But its no problem as you find little stores and such in every little village. No problem here. If you arrange a homestay, they would probably serve you some food as well.

      3. Weather
      I am not sure. You should check the weather table for Kratie but I think March should be still ok.

      4. Backpack
      If you return to Kratie, I would just leave my pack at your guesthouse. That has never been a problem and I think I also did it in Kratie. If not, which I seriously doubt, I would try directly at the Toursim Office.

      5. 4.000 Islands
      That would indeed involve getting a Laos Visa and a Cambodia Visa. It i extra cost and hassle. Don’t underestimate travel times. Distances are great and transport slow. I am also not sure if you can actually get two Cambodia Visas within three months time. That might be critical which you should definitely check before considering that option. I personally would not do it. Why don’t u travel through all of or parts of Laos and then into Vietnam?

      I hope my info helps a little. I can surely recommend the Mekong Discovery Trail. It is cool and not yet too touristy. Let me know how things worked out for you and how you liked it…

      Philipp

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