Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Relaxing by the Mekong

The vihara at Wat Roka Kandal, restored to its former glory in 2002
A couple of weeks ago, I spent two nights in the provincial town of Kratie, on my way into northern Cambodia, enjoying the dolphin activity at Kampi and the laid-back atmosphere of this colonial-infused Mekong riverside location. It was my first overnight visit to Kratie in nine years and little had changed. I stayed at the Oudom Sambath hotel on the riverfront, which was about as good as it gets in the provinces, ie. air-con and hot water, at $15/night, ate at the Red Sun Falling - where I had the best chips I've tasted since moving to Cambodia to live - and also sampled the fare at the U-Hong restaurant next to the market and a cooked breakfast at the Star guesthouse. As you can expect at any town in any province, the market was a hive of activity and the colonial buildings ringing the marketplace add a touch of faded elegance to the area, even though the smell doesn't quite add spice to the scene. The restored early 19th century wooden pagoda at Wat Roka Kandal (its original name is Wat Botumny Vannaram) lies a couple of kilometres south of the center and I remember it as a broken and dilapidated vihara when I was last in Kratie, until it received its makeover in early 2002 with financial help from the German Federation, and is now a handicraft center. It lies next to the Mekong riverbank and adjacent to a couple of decaying wooden bungalows that can be rented. Tim and I popped our heads into a couple of the locals wats, played football with a group of men at Wat Serey Santhor Vong and took the opportunity to enjoy the setting sun across the river with a fruit-shake in one hand and camera in the other. A relaxing start to our adventures.
I remember this female figure from my last visit to Roka Kandal 9 years ago
A rare wooden pediment on Wat Roka Kandal showing a sitting Buddha
A nicely decorated door panel at Wat Roka Kandal
The west-facing wooden pediment at Wat Roka Kandal
A wooden post inside the vihara which has been hand-painted with naga motifs
Did you think I wouldn't bring you a Neak Ta? This one is from Roka Kandal.
Sunset on our 1st night and the birds fly home to nest
A temporary beach near Roka Kandal, where the water level of the Mekong has dropped
The gorgeous dusk sky as the sun sets on our 2nd night in Kratie

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