A bustling riverside destination, most people come to Kratie (pronounced Kra-cheh) for one thing, but that would be an injustice to this charming town and its gorgeous natural surrounds. Of course, the opportunity to view the rare Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins in the undoubted highlight of Kratie, said to be the finest spot in the world to see these friendly, unique animals at play.
Kratie’s location, 348kms north of Phnom Penh and 190kms south of the Laos border, makes in a natural stopover on the burgeoning overland journey. A booming travel hub for those heading to and from Pakse, Champasak and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) in southern Laos, Kratie meanders along the Mekong with a quiet grace that so far has avoided modernisation – although this is likely to change.
Brief guide to Kratie
Thankfully spared from the wartime bombings which devastated much of the country, Kratie was held up as one of the first provincial towns to find liberation under the Khmer Rouge in 1970, although it was actually the allied Vietnamese communists who seized control.
This allowed Kratie’s architecture, and soul, to remain mostly untouched, and the legacy of French colonial construction is still evident on the town’s wide, tree-lined streets and quaint shop fronts.
Today’s Kratie is a lively market and transport centre, which has boomed since the completion of the sealed road between Phnom Penh and Laos. The surrounding countryside remains essentially untouched, with few travellers staying longer than to see the dolphins, meaning unspoilt villages and panoramic rice fields can be explored without the usual throng of camera-toting tourists.
Traditional stilted houses and incredibly hospitable village folk mean that those looking for a truly authentic Cambodian experience will have their most remote travel wishes satisfied. There is no major tourism network as yet, with the town still more on the backpacker radar, but sufficient infrastructure has been developed to provide tourists with all of the requisite modern needs.