Leaving behind Sambor and the 116 pillar pagoda, we retraced our steps southwards along the east bank of the Mekong River, stopping often to interact with the locals, usually kids 'cause they're the easiest to get the big wide smiles from. The Mekong River water level was quite low so exposed a lot of small grass-tufted islands, as it had in Kratie town, where a virtual beach had appeared complete with temporary sun-shades just in front of Wat Roka Kandal. At the turn-off for Phnom Sambok
, we stopped for sugar cane juice before tackling the three-levels of Sambok mountain, 360 steps and its varied pagodas. At the first level we stopped to have sticky rice (a local delicacy called krolan) with the nuns who were so welcoming we couldn't resist. Through actions rather than words, we had an enjoyable half hour, sharing their food and doing our bit for English-Khmer relations before facing the rest of the steps to the top. There are great views over the surrounding river plains, though the pagodas themselves weren't much to write home about and apart from a sandstone pedestal, there was little else I could find. Next stop was the pagoda at Wat Thma Krae where I spied another pedestal and after a bit of searching, a half lintel - with figures riding a massive makara - that had been cemented into part of a bridge construction. One way to avoid it being stolen I suppose. The young monk we spoke to told us that there used to be other carvings but they had been whisked away years ago, a similar story can be heard across the country. The village of Thma Krae is where it seems everyone is involved in selling krolan packed in bamboo. Our final port of call was the distinquished two-storey pagoda at Wat Krakor, before we rolled back into Kratie town itself, in time for a shave at the local beauty salon, an hour on the internet and a fruit-shake and chat with riverside vendor Leang, who'd come to Kratie a year before from her home in Kompong Cham as business was much better here. At 27 she was looking to stay one more year before returning to her home town with her earnings and to look for a husband. Spotting a glint in her eye, it was time to say goodbye, I wished her well and walked back to my hotel for an early night, in prep for the minibus ride to Stung Treng the next morning.Note: Photos to follow - Blogger.com is having a hissy fit and won't let me upload any photos. I hope it's just a temporary problem.
Labels: Kratie, Phnom Sambok