I arrived in Kratie, Cambodia last night after a 9-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh, a brief stopover after my night on Rabbit Island. The past few days have been a whirlwind of travel and I’m so tired of moving this quickly.
I only came to Kratie on a whim. I heard it was cool, so I hopped on the next bus over.
A fellow guest-house patron and I decide to hire bicycles and ride around the Mekong, through Kratie and to the smaller towns along the river. I really enjoyed the last time I rode bikes in Cambodia, so I have a feeling this will work out well.
We start down the road to the ferry and immediately the town fades away and a dirt road appears, surrounded by jungle-like flora, cows, and residences.
Kids run out of the wooden shacks on stilts and yell “hello!” in the cheeriest, brightest fashion.
They don’t just say it once either, they keep yelling it and waving enthusiastically. I feel the need to respond to each and every one. Sometimes practically singing “hellooo!” when a big group of them rides by.
I feel a little bit like a celebrity on the smallest scale possible. Here I am, riding a rickety little bike with a tilting seat, wearing a Chang beer tank top (Khao San Road’s finest), sweating like a pig, and yet I’m the entertainment of the day.
Kiddies, I’m sorry. I didn’t know I’d have an audience. I should have put on my Sunday best.
My biking companion is a 30 year old guy from Melbourne who took a short career break/dental vacation to Bangkok. He has a girlfriend back home and I’m happy that we’re able to just bike along as nothing other than friends. He’s a great companion and I enjoy his platonic company.
He enjoys saying hi to the children, too.
It’s really nice to see them just enjoying life and going to school. So far in Cambodia, I’ve seen tons of children peddling bracelets or books on the street and in Angkor Wat. It’s a tough thing to see children as young as 5 working.
Today, however, these kids appear to just be kids.
We end up on some pretty remote little roads several miles outside of Kratie, loving the countryside and completely oblivious to the fact that we’re headed farther and farther into the boonies.
He shouts to me, “By the way, I’m not the best with directions!”
To which I respond, “Perfect! I have no sense of direction at all!”
We pass a few waving men but figure they’re saying hello as well, so we simply wave and keep going. Eventually, as the rain starts to come down softly, we decide to stop when yet another adult waves.
We learned a valuable lesson that day: when a kid in Kratie yells out to you, wave. When an adult yells out to you, stop and find out what the heck you’re doing wrong.
He points us in the right direction and we’re on our way back to the river, where we meant to be all along.
A couple of times, my pesky bike seat tilts so much that I need a helping hand. Luckily, both times I stop at a random shack that appears to hold promise of a possible wrench, I’m helped by an eager and friendly local who expects nothing in return. Both times, surrounded by kids saying “hello” over and over.
The rain never lets up but it’s welcome. It provides relief on an otherwise sweltering hot day.
We spend the better part of the day biking around the mighty Mekong, and a subdued evening with a couple of other travelers in a very quiet Kratie (the king has died and Cambodia is finishing up a week of silence in his honor).
My next AM will probably involve sore muscles and loads of Tiger Balm. But I’ll worry about that tomorrow. Today, I’m still in the afterglow of a beautiful day in the countryside – something I’ve been craving since I got to Cambodia.