I don’t normally write about the places, that I stay as I travel. Primarily as I think opinions vary greatly. What is good for one, could be a nightmare for another. Since travelling on a budget around South East Asia, I feel my standards have lowered significantly. Air conditioning is now a luxury for me.
However, sometimes I end up spending a little more for a private room; to have space to myself, away from the need to constantly talk to the typical backpackers about where you’re from, how long you are travelling for and where you are going.
Whilst finishing my time on the four thousand islands, in Laos, I decided to break up my journey to Cambodia up by stopping in Kratie, in the Stung Treng Province. There appeared little to do there, apart from watching the freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphins and the local fisherman while away their day by the harbour front.
When researching places to stay in Kratie, I came across various uninspiring Guesthouses or overpriced hotels. I then had a search on Trip Advisor, and the number one choice was a Guesthouse, previously known as Le Tone Guesthouse, but renamed as Le Tonle Tourism Training Centre.
After reading about it on their website, I was in. It was to be the first of many NGOs I visited, during my time in Cambodia.
What is Le Tonle Tourism Training Centre about?
Le Tonle Tourism Training Centre was established in Stung Treng city, north of Kratie. Its aim is to provide young people free vocational training, in the tourism industry. They are unpaid but learn skills in hospitality management, and cooking, as well as being taught English, which they later practice with tourists, that stay there and visit the amazing restaurant.
After a longer than expected, and uncomfortable bus ride from the border, I was quite literally dumped at a layby, along with my bags. I wiped the dirt off my rucksack, and attempted to ask where we were. I knew the guesthouse wasn’t far from the centre, I had already marked it on a map, but I was unsure where it was. It was after 8pm, dark and I was tired. I jumped in the neatest tuk tuk, and was charged US$3 to be driven 3 minutes up the road, but I was in no fit state to negotiate.
As my tuk tuk pulled up in front of the large, well lit building, two young boys jumped to their feet, rushed over and greeted me with huge smiles, which you couldn’t help but smile back at. They took my belongings and welcomed me in. One of them excitedly introduced himself, and said “when you called to book, you spoke with me.” I smiled and told him his English was very good.
I was shown to my room. it was dimly lit, but there were fresh towels, free bottled water, a mosquito net and a cool fan in the room. It looked comfortable and I was delighted to be staying here for the next few nights.
I checked out the bathroom, and oh my word; possibly the best bathroom, and shower I’ve seen in any place I’ve stayed in SE Asia. It was like an urban jungle. The shower was incredible, as I later found out. I could have stayed under it all day.
Although I had eaten noodles at the obligatory food stop on the way, I decided I needed something more substantial. So I sat down at the restaurant area, were I felt like I was at a 5 star resort. A young boy pulled my chair out for me, set the table and gave me a menu. I later knocked the fork off the table, quickly picked it up and wiped it, thinking “two second rule”. However, within seconds of picking it up, a new one was rushed over and placed on the table. It was all very efficient.
I ordered Amok curry that night, which is a Cambodian favourite. Curry made in a banana leaf and served with rice. Quite similar to other dishes in SE Asia, but very delicious.
The food in general was amazing, and I sampled my way through the menu over the next few nights. The earl grey tea was also amazing.
Mealtimes were a great way to talk with the young students, they were so polite and well mannered, saying “you’re welcome” a lot. They shyly giggled if they said something wrong.
The centre encourages its patrons to open the dialogue as much as possible, so I had a great time asking the students about their lives in Cambodia, where they were from and their aspirations for the future. All of them really felt privileged to have been given the opportunity to train here, and I felt privileged to have stayed there.
It was truly the most beautiful, heart-warming place I’ve stayed. A great welcome to Cambodia.
If you happen to be in Kratie or Stung Treng; I would look into this place. For US$10 per night, it is a real gem of a place, I’m glad I found it.