Kratie is a small, laid back town on the Mekong River in Northeastern Cambodia, and makes a great spot to break up the journey between Phnom Penh and Laos. Old French Colonial buildings surround the town’s central market, and the picturesque Mekong River provides a perfect scene at sunset. Many people come here primarily to view the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins that live in the area, but the town has enough to offer to make spending a few days well worth it.
Things to do in Kratie
Kratie is the best place in Cambodia to view the rare freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphins that inhabit the Mekong River. A pod of these small dolphins live in a stretch of the river that is around 15km north of Kratie in a village called Kampi. To get there, you can take a tuk tuk or motorbike taxi, or take yourself by rented scooter or bicycle to the village, where you can hire a boat and driver to take you out to see the dolphins. Viewing the dolphins costs $9 per person for up to two people in the boat. If you have a larger group, the price drops to $7 per person. The motor boat will take you out into the middle of the river and then turn off the engine and paddle the boat with an oar so as not to disturb the dolphins. They stay out there for about an hour, so you will definitely see some dolphins. They pop up for air quite regularly.
We arrived by hiring a scooter from our guesthouse for $7 for the whole day.
Koh Trong is a long island in the middle of the Mekong River and can be seen from the riverbank in Kratie. It is an excellent place to get a taste of the real rural Cambodia and makes for a relaxing and peaceful bike ride. Rent your bicycle in town and take it across to the island on the small ferry boat that crosses the river around every hour, although it may not leave until they have enough passengers. The ferry across to the island leaves from the main “pier” in town at the bottom of the concrete steps that lead down to the river bank and costs 2000 Riel ($0.50) for the one way trip. Simply hop on the boat and they will collect your money. On the island, the ferry simply pulls up at the river bank where you hop off.
We rented our bicycles from our guesthouse for $1 each for the whole day.
Kratie has some of the best Mekong Sunsets that you will ever see. Locals and tourists alike all head down to the river at around 7pm each night to watch the sun slowly sink down over the river. It is always a relaxing way to end the day.
All towns in Cambodia have a central market, and Kratie is no different. It is the center of everything in town, and it is definitely an interesting place to wander through, but don’t expect to buy souvenirs here. This is a local market where people come to buy fresh produce, clothes and household items.
Where to stay in Kratie
Kratie is a fairly small town and there are only a handful of guesthouses, most of which are located in the area between the riverbank and the market. We arrived at night and found most of the places full.
You Hong Guesthouse
We actually first tried their other guesthouse, You Hong II, but were directed here when we were told that there were no rooms available. You Hong Guesthouse is located directly across from the market. The rooms are basic, but for $5 per night, we had nothing to complain about. It was clean and comfortable enough, the owners are friendly and their food isn’t bad either.
Where to eat in Kratie
You’ll probably find yourself eating a lot of your meals at your guesthouse (or others) in Kratie, as there aren’t a lot of actual restaurants around.
As we arrived at night and took a while to find a place to stay, our first meal was at our guesthouse, and we weren’t disappointed. They serve local and western dishes at cheap prices, and the food is pretty good. If you are riced out, try one of their pizzas.
Their other guesthouse, You Hong II, offers are similar menu and is located closer to the river.
This is a popular guesthouse and restaurant located on a picturesque street corner that looks out at the central market. It is expat owned but their Cambodian chef cooks up some good food. Their Amok is well worth trying.
If you can speak some Khmer then you can definitely get a cheap and tasty meal at the market. There are also a few street food stalls that run during the day and night opposite the Star Guesthouse.
Getting to and around Kratie
We arrived in Kratie by bus from Phnom Penh which cost $11 per person and took around 7 hours. You can also arrive from most other places in Cambodia as well as from Si Phan Don or Pakse in Southern Laos.
Kratie is a small town so walking or cycling is the best way to get around and see the place. For trips further afield you can rent a scooter or hire a moto driver to take you around. I did also see a couple of tuk tuks in town. Your guesthouse can usually organise anything that you need.