20 Feb Stung Treng
After a short cycle, another helping of dry rice and fried-egg breakfast–complete with eggshell–and a very refreshing hitchhike on the back of a dump-truck, we find ourselves in Stung Treng.
We were told of a hostel by the river that has warm showers and decent rates. Unfortunately, they would not let us store our bikes inside, so we stayed at the place a couple doors down from it, that seems to have more local guests for the same rate.
Most of us still do not feel well, we feel weak and are tired of being sick. So we decide to take another downtime in town to finally cure what is ailing us. Although, we have tried Imodium to battle the ongoing diarrhea, it has not helped. Randy had more luck fighting it by taking a round of antibiotics that he brought from home, so we finally decide to go out on the search for a pharmacy. There are several in town. Pharmacies here are small; there is an open counter facing the street and several shelves line the small non-air-conditioned area. The medications are all cramped on the shelves, there is no lock to be seen. There are several opened packages on the shelves; a pair of scissors and a few small packages of pills laying on the counter are evidence that medications can be purchased one pill at a time.
After a very entertaining round of charades, we are able to explain what is ailing us and are handed another package of Imodium type meds. I shake my head and ask for antibiotics and once the pharmacist figures out how long we’ve been dealing with the issue, he is happy to sell us a package of Cipro for a whole whopping 75 cents…that was easy!
For the next few days, we take it easy. We go on a boat ride up the Mekong river to see the Preah Nimith waterfall at the Lao border. During the 4 hour boat ride upstream we pass by the flooded forests, where amazing looking trees grow in the river. Many of the trees are water-swept; a huge tangle of roots and branches are pointing downstream from the thick, sturdy trunks. We also pass by a few gardens planted along the fertile river bank, the occasional fisherman, and a few locals bathing in the river.
Once we get close to the waterfall we have to switch from the boat to a tuk tuk to take us the rest of the way. Our tuk tuk driver is young and new to the business. He is eager to get going. Unfortunately, about a mile into the bumpy, hilly adventure ride on the dirt road, his tuk tuk stops running. He checks all his gages, opens the gas tank on his moto and shakes it ….it’s obvious, there is no gas in the tank. He shakes the motorcycle some more…but still no gas. Go figure!?
Our more seasoned boat guide, who is also coming along with us, smiles and hands the young man his phone. Well, it looks like we’ll be here for a little while, at least we have shade from the tuk tuk and we have a place to sit. To us it is the perfect time to eat our lunches, that we brought along. The boat guide just smiles at us and follows suit while the poor young man sits up front waiting for somebody to bring a bottle of gas.
Eventually a couple plastic bottles of fuel are delivered and we are off to the Preah Nimith Falls. These waterfalls form a natural border between Laos and Cambodia and they are the only reason why it is impossible to travel along the Mekong from Vietnam to China.
There are only a few tourists at the falls and we are definitely the only westerners around. A young couple comes by and wants to take pictures with us. First the girl poses with us then the guy. This happens actually pretty often during our travel in Southeast Asia. We usually think it’s pretty funny and at times I decide to take a picture of them as well….a sort of how-does-that-feel-picture.
We spend a good hour hiking over the rocks and enjoy the different views of the enormous waterfall, before we start our ride back.
The following day, we stay close to our room, walk around town for a bit and check out the very different covered market. Everything is for sale here: from clothes to hard ware, from jewellery to shoes, fresh fruit, fish, turtles, chicken alive and dead, which ever you prefer. Meat is laid out on the tables with women sitting on top of the tables as well and flies are abundant. All parts of the animals are for sale: pig head, pig’s feet, liver, brain, tail, stomach….A few feet away there is the barber section, a few feet further jewelry is made and precious stones are set in gold, while on the other side food stalls and tables can be found. OSHA would have a field day in here for sure.
We walk around the stalls and the town while Randy tries to feed just about every stray dog we encounter. There are lots of strays in Cambodia and many of them look malnourished and weak. It is sometimes very sad to look at them, but it is no wonder in a poor country, where many people in the country side do not have enough to feed themselves. So, many of our left overs go to the Dogs along our way.
After a couple down days and several doses of antibiotics, we all feel ready to continue our ride down the Mekong River.