Kratie (Pronounced Kror-ches) is a relatively quiet town that is located on the east bank of the Mekong River. It is approx. 315 km from the city of Phnom Penh and famous for his resident Irrawaddy dolphins to make a very popular destination on the Indochina tour packages. This is a very beautiful town with plenty of big islands and sandbars.
There are plenty of attractive homes throughout the town that have French and Khmer architecture, with many of the older buildings relatively unscathed from the war years.
A great reason to explore this pleasant town is the ability to view the local freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin population. This is only possible in this one town across the entire country of Cambodia. It is easy to see the dolphins by taking a 25 minute boat ride that also makes it possible to admire the authentic life of the local Cambodians. This boat ride can also include visiting a temple in the mountains and the rapids upstream.
The town of Kratie has a vibrant market scene that makes it possible to take in the rural Cambodia life and sample some of the local delicacies (such as the grilled corn cakes).
In addition, this town is conveniently placed about midway between Phnom Penh and Rattanakiri, which makes it a great place for a relaxing break before moving onto the relatively remote area of Rattanakiri.
Whether it is staying in town for several days or overnight, this is a great layover for those planning to visit Laos on the Cambodia package tours, or simply visiting to see the prime attraction in Kratie: freshwater dolphins.
The preferred time to experience the Cambodian tour packages that include destinations like Kratie is between November and March when the temperature is cooler and the humidity is a lot more bearable. Plus, there is likely to be little rain throughout this time frame. The average temperate is in the region of 27.5°C. The months with the most rain are May to October (July is the wettest), so extra clothing should be taken on the Cambodia travel packages, such as a light waterproof jacket if planning to travel during this time-frame. Also, April is the warmest month in the region, and may be good to avoid for those that prefer to avoid the intense heat.
Kratie is a pleasant town that is located along the Mekong River and able to offer the most beautiful sunsets in the country. It is relatively easy to reach from Siem Reap (taking about 6 hours) and Phnom Penh (taking about 5 hours). Any travel journeys that are in a north eastern direction that lead to Mondolkiri, Ratanakiri, or Laos are certain to pass through Kratie. Even though many tourists use this town to travel to ongoing destinations and may only stay a single night, there are still plenty of things to see and do.
The Kratie province is approximately 11,094 km² in size with a vast percentage of the land area consisting of dense forest (83%) and rice fields or other agricultural land (8%). This province is boarded to the south with Kampong Cham, to the west with Kampong Thom, to the east with Mondulkiri and to the north with Stueng Treng.
How to get there
Kratie is easily reached by bus if travelling from Phnom Penh along the NH No 7. Bus companies like Sorya, Hour Lean, and PPPT will pass through this town while on the long journey to either Rattanakiri or Stung Treng. Many of the bus services run once or twice daily to make the journey very easy and convenient and can take up to 7 hours to complete, and is relatively inexpensive at about $6.
Once in the town of Kratie the most practical way to get around town is to hire a bicycle from one of the local businesses or guesthouses. The cost is only $1 per day and makes getting around so much easier. Other options include the motorbike rentals at approx $6 per day, which are great for travelling further afield such as looking around the local countryside.
Where to stay
There are plenty of places to stay if planning to stay over in Kratie for a day or more on the Cambodia package tours.
The quality and number of hotels in Kratie have seen a significant increase in the last few years with plenty of high-quality places to stay for the couples or families. Plus, there are also plenty of great guest houses in the local area. The cost of the accommodation can vary with the time of the season.
One of the nicest places to stay in town is the River Dolphin full-service hotel that is just 2 km from the riverside and town centre. The rooms offer plenty of features with an outside pool and rates are relatively attractive with rooms downstairs that are even practical for the budget travellers. Also, the Heng Heng II Hotel is a Khmer-styled guesthouse that includes the basics, but comes with no frills.
Other options include Le Bungalow, Oudom Sambath Hotel, Silver Dolphin and You Hong Guesthouse. The cost for the backpacker style accommodation is less than $10 per night, while the midrange rooms can increase to $35 to $75 per night.
Beyond the accommodation in town, there are other places to stay in the nearby Koh Trong, which is a short journey by boat.
For the most authentic Cambodian experience it is possible to venture off the beaten track and stay at one of the homestays with a local family. This makes it possible to really appreciate the rural life and explore the countryside, eat home-cooked meals and make new friends.
Eat and drink
This town has a great selection of food stalls that include Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes. The riverfront is a great place to explore for the low-cost food in the evenings when more of the food stalls are set up. This is a great place to be in the evening when the sunset can take place right in front of you.
Also, many of the hotels and guesthouse have an attached restaurant that serves a long list of traditional Cambodian meals, as we as some Western influenced dishes. Most of these restaurants offer the very reasonable prices. Some of the best eateries include Le Tonle, Jasmine Boat, Tokae and You Hong.
The Kratie market is a relatively short distance from the Mekong River and includes an extensive list of consumer products such as meats, vegetables, fruits and fish. Plus, there are also two night markets in the area, as well as a photo shop just west of the markets.
Things to see and do
One of the most popular places to stop on the Cambodia Package Tours includes visiting the Irrawaddy dolphins. They are a common sight in Kratie and have helped to boost the local economy thanks to the interest from travelling visitors. It is possible to view these majestic creatures throughout the year by signing up for a local boat trip. The dolphins can be found deep in the Mekong pool that is close to the Kampi village and about 15 km north of Kratie. This popular tourist attraction has done a lot to help the town recover after years of neglect. The Irrawaddy Dolphins can weigh up to 150 kg, grow to a length of 2.75 m and have a lifespan of up to 30 years.
Plus the most favourable times to visit to the dolphins is very early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre
The Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre has been established to protect several species of turtle including the very rare Cantor's shoftshell, which was recently discovered in this region of the Mekong River. This particular species of turtle have the ability to grow up to 2 m in length. The baby hatchlings are kept at the conservation Centre for nearly 10 months before being later released into the wild.
100 Columns Pagoda
The well-known pagoda of Vihear Sarsar Mouy Rouy (means temple with 100 columns) has a long history as a site of pilgrimage for the locals of Kratie. This pagoda was first constructed for King Chann Reachea in the 16th century. The 100 columns are there to commemorate the memory of the king's daughter, Vorakpheak.
West Bank of the Mekong River
For the tourists that like the Cambodia adventure tours that go off the beaten track, a visit to the West Bank of the Mekong River is certain to give a very authentic experience. There is a choice of touring options in the region, including the cycling tours and motorbike tours. A complete tour of the area makes it possible to see the peanut farms, mango farms, banana farms, rice whiskey making, rice paddies, palm sugar production, tobacco growing and tobacco production. Plus, there is the option to meet the locals and enjoy the meal to better understand the farm life in Cambodia.
Also, Kratie makes it possible to experience some of the finest Mekong sunsets you are likely to see. Many tourists and locals take the short trip to the river at about 7PM in the evening to watch as the sun slowly sets over the river. This makes a very relaxing way to finish the sightseeing.
Phnom Sombok is in the middle of a lush forest and is a two Peaked Hill with one including an active Wat and situated on the road between Kratie and Kampi. The local forest is filled with wildlife, including monkeys and birds. The mountaintop is easily accessible by taking the concrete staircase to the top. On arrival at the summit you are able to benefit from the stunning panoramic views of the countryside that stretch across the Mekong River.
Koh Trong is an island of market gardens and homestays that are famous for the local grapefruit and vegetables. This island is a perfect example of the rural Cambodian life that is situated in the middle of the Mekong River and virtually opposite the Kratie riverfront. On any Cambodia vacation tours, a visit to Koh Trong can give a visually stunning and relaxing day that can be extended if preferred with an overnight homestay. The actual island is very quiet with a unique floating village, beaches and surrounded by farmland. Other attractions in the local area include a kayak or boat trip around the local Koh Trong waters.
A great time to travel to Koh Trong is December to May when the beautiful beaches are more accessible and gives a perfect opportunity to camp overnight.
Koh Phdao is a further destination in Kratie that makes it possible to immerse yourself in the local culture with a homestay experience. This beautiful and peaceful island is in the region of 36 km from the main town and close to Sambor which is popular for the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre and 100 Pillars Pagoda. In addition, this island is home to a variety of CRDT's projects which make it possible to learn about the lives of the local community. Local culture, rare creatures, natural delights and sweeping riparian landscapes make it possible to really appreciate the beauty of this island destination.
A seasonal attraction (only available from January to May) in the region is the Kampi Rapids which are approximately 16 km from the main town of Kratie. This is a great natural site with streams that let visitors swim and bathe. This area also includes access to a diverse range of Khmer food; including local specialties such as the Chak Chreng dish (a species of snail that only lives in this particular area).