The majority of visitors to Cambodia’s southern coast should not visit Kampot without visiting its twin sister, Kep. I have dubbed them as sisters because to me they are like ‘salt and pepper’ where the one can’t do without the other. Although I might think of them as twins, they certainly are not identical because they are quite different.
Kampot, with a population of about 50,000, is the capital of Kampot Province. It lies on the Preaek Tuek Chhu River, better known as simply the Kampot River. It’s got a laid back vibe which has led to a noticeable growth in ex-pats. There are those who have chosen to live there for humanitarian reasons offering services for disadvantaged Cambodian youngsters by providing education and training in the arts, hospitality, and entrepreneurship. Then, there are others wanting to escape from the high cost of living in their own countries, such as France and Australia, to this town where they can lead a more leisurely life fulfilling a dream they could never afford to do in their country. By taking advantage of the opportunities offered here, many of the younger couples are starting their own families which indicates they are here for the long haul.
In a country beset with problems past and present, I made it my quest to find some good news to write about while visiting Battambang, Cambodia’s third largest city to the northwest. This was my second visit…the first was in 2015. On my fourth day, I was beginning to despair that I would find anything uplifting to write about. To me it appeared that the city hadn’t changed much except for looking a bit dirtier and dustier. Of course, I couldn’t help noticing far too much garbage everywhere. I would have to look beyond it and dig a little deeper to find what I was looking for.
Kratie is a small town of about 7,000 people in northeastern Cambodia situated on the mighty Mekong River. It’s a sleepy little place sporting a green, tree-lined boulevard which stretches almost the entire length of the town from north to south. It’s main claim to fame is its proximity to the dolphins which inhabit the Mekong’s waters just a little north of the town.
A Kratie sunset on the Mekong River
When I recently mentioned to someone I was going to take a trip up to Kratie, I got the following response: “What is there to do other than visit some dolphins with no guarantee of seeing any?”
Despite this warning, one of the first things I did was to go visit the dolphins, and I beg to differ that there is more to see and learn than just hope to get a glimpse and take a photo of them. For me, it was about how I got there and what I learned about the projects that Kratie is involved in to make their community more sustainable. What started with a small group of like-minded and concerned people just over ten years ago is slowly growing. They want to preserve what is left of their resources and natural habitat to improve the quality of the lives of those living there.