Last update: January 2023
Kratie as a destination might not be as popular as, let’s say Angkor Wat. It does however, still receive its share of domestic and foreign visitors in the know.
Moreover, Kratie will take you to the real Cambodia. Maybe not completely off the beaten path, but mostly undiscovered and exciting. It’s noticeably less crowded while still having an adequate tourism infrastructure in place and guaranteed interactions with the local population.
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Kratie or “Kracheh” is the name of a province in Central Cambodia. The capital of the province is also named Kratie and is conveniently situated on the Mekong river. If you travel to the Northeast of Cambodia, on your way to either Laos, Vietnam, Ratanakiri or Mondulkiri, you will have to pass through Kratie at one point.
You’ve gotta love Kratie, I know I do. The pass-through town for travelers to and from Laos has always kept its relaxing river town vibe. Even today with major developments going on in Cambodia, Kratie manages to hold on to a slower, more amiable pace. Visitors that do stick around for a few more days are treated to a genuine Mekong experience.
It’s not just about the rare and elusive Irrawaddy dolphins, which are a unique experience of course. It’s also the many community development initiatives. Visitors are encouraged to passively or hands-on participate in projects to protect the environment and improve the lives of the local population.
Reasons to visit/avoid Kratie
4 Reasons to visit Kratie
It shouldn’t be your only motivation, but for sure the presence of the Irrawaddy dolphins is one of the main reasons for a visit. There’s magic and peacefulness in seeing those carefree souls in their own environment;
Kratie will give you a real feel for the Cambodian rural communities. Nowhere is this more visible than in the Kratie surroundings. Locals are reliant on each other and cooperate wherever they can;
Experience life around the Mekong up close;
Cambodia was named as the world’s most friendliest country in 2021. On top of that I would like to add that the people of Kratie are without a doubt the friendliest in Cambodia. Reason enough to visit.
3 Reasons to avoid Kratie
Heavy rains often causes the Mekong to flood during rainy season. You don’t want to be around when that happens, trust me. During this time the area can be difficult to reach because of flooded roads anyway;
The heat can be really brutal in Cambodia and Kratie is no exception. In the rainy season from May to October temperatures subside, but only by a little. The average day temperature may drop to 30 Celsius, but the high humidity will leave you feeling like you’re in a Turkish steam room;
Except for maybe one or two hotels, Kratie is definitely not a luxury destination. There are no posh restaurants and no shopping malls. I’m not implying that you have to rough it, but if you travel here with high expectations, you will for sure be disappointed;
Healthcare in Cambodia is hopelessly underdeveloped. Any serious ailments or injuries will most likely result in medical transport to Bangkok or Singapore. Expensive and payable up front if you lack proper insurance.
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Things to see/do in Kratie
I know you’re here for the dolphins, which is a good enough reason since they are quite unique. However, there is a lot more to Kratie, which justifies hanging around for a bit longer.
Half day activity, whole day if you include the Kampi rapids
But alright, let’s start with the lovable creatures. A guesstimated 25 Irrawaddy fresh water dolphins populate the Mekong near Kratie. They are best spotted at Kampi village, about 15 km upstream from Kratie. Kampi is easy to reach by bicycle, motorbike or tuk-tuk, just keep the Mekong to your left.
At Kampi, boats will take you out on the river and soon you will be surrounded by dolphins. If all is well, it’s all done in a responsible manner. Boats are $9 p/p. For an extra $2 the boats can subsequently take you to the rapids nearby and you can have a picnic on one of the sandbank Islands.
Half to whole day activity
Another, and maybe even better way to see the dolphins is by joining a kayak tour. There are three kayak operators in Kratie and they pretty much offer the same experience. Half day or whole day kayak trips on the Mekong through the flooded forest and dolphin watching. It’s practically guaranteed that you will see dolphins up close as the dolphins seem to be less disturbed by the kayaks than by the noisy motorized boats.
We did the kayak tour with Socheat from dolphinkayaking.com His nickname is Lucky, because his groups always spot the most dolphins. I don’t know if it was luck or skill, but fact is that we saw a lot of dolphins up close.
Mekong discovery trail
Multiple day activity
The Mekong discovery trail will take you to parts on and around the Mekong where few tourists go. The trail comprises the Mekong area between Kratie and Stung Treng. You can do the whole 180 km or just parts of it. Using these trails will support local communities with an income from tourism rather than from unsustainable fishing and poaching.
The Mekong discovery trail is used by crdtours.com, which has an office in Kratie. So pick up your free map there. Next to community development themed tours they also provide free info about the Mekong discovery trail for if you want to go it your own (you can leave a donation).
Koh Trong Island
Half to whole day activity
Hop on the ferry (Khr1000=$0.25) at the Kratie riverside next to Jasmine restaurant for the 10 min crossing to Koh Trong Island in the Mekong. Bring your bicycle, or better yet, rent one on the Island for $1 just off the ferry dock.
The Island is beautiful, green, rural and virtually litter free. You can cycle the 10 km route around the Island while making stops to visit the temples, the floating village or for a swim at the beach on the West bank. Make sure to be on time for the last ferry back to Kratie at 6:30pm.
Cruisin’ on your rental motorbike
Whole day activity
Motorbike scooters can be rented for the day all over town for $5-$8. My favorite thing to do in Kratie was to take my rental out for a spin along the Mekong. It doesn’t really matter if you go North or South, the scenery is beautiful and interesting either way.
Drive North and you’ll find rural scenery and views over the Mekong. You will pass by a few temples including the one on the hill at Phnom Sambok and also Kampi village where the dolphins are. Eventually you will end up in Sambor which has the famous 100 pillar pagoda.
To the South is the very old Rokarkandal pagoda with its wooden roof and further down to the town of Chhlong. The draw of Chhlong is the colonial architecture. Initially left to decay, but many renovations are now ongoing with some of them finalized, including the famous hotel ‘Le Relais de Chhlong’.
Another interesting route is along the West bank of the Mekong, but you will have to cross the river with one of the ferries, there is no bridge. This route has mostly unpaved, but drive-able roads and takes you through rural villages where time stood still for decades.
More exciting activities in our comprehensive list of “11 Most wonderful things to do in Kratie, Cambodia”.
Where to stay in Kratie
There aren’t a whole lot of accommodations in Kratie and the economical effects of Covid compelled some to them to close their doors. Still, there are a few good choices left for you to try. Venture off to the town’s riverfront to find the largest concentration of hotels and guesthouses. This is a good area to stay with nice views over the Mekong river and Koh Trong Island. Most restaurants are also in this area so you won’t have to go far when you get hungry.
Around the Sammaki market a few more accommodations can be found. The quality of some of the accommodations here can be somewhat shabby so it might pay off to check any reviews before booking.
Budget = from $10 to $30
Basic, but clean and well managed guest house. Cheapest rooms are just over $10 and they also have family and first class rooms. Views over the Mekong are wonderful, especially at sunset. Bonuspoints for having Pete’s Pizza Pasta Café & Bar on site, which is a good place for brekkie, lunch and diner.
Mom Brocheabry Hotel
Budget = from $10 to $30
This fairly new hotel in a good location in the middle of town definitely offers value for money. Rooms are in perfect condition and clean. The staff go out of their way to make you feel welcome. The owner asked us a hundred times what he could do to make our stay more pleasant.
Koh Trong Island
Soriyabori Villas (former Rajabori)
Luxury = from $75 to $200 (but super deals from time to time)
Wonderful resort, secluded from the outside world on Koh Trong Island in the Mekong river. The resort features a large pool, restaurant, free wifi and free bicycles for guests. We didn’t actually stay here, but visited for coffee and the staff was nice enough to give us a full tour of the resort.
To compare prices and read reviews check out Agoda.com. More than often, Agoda has very good deals on accommodations, especially out of high season.
Where to eat in Kratie
Let’s face it, Kratie is not a culinary paradise and maybe it will never be. Having said that, I was real happy to find that the food options have improved tremendously since my previous visit 10 years ago. Praise to the Irrawaddy dolphins that manage to lure more visitors to Kratie year on year. It has obviously incentivized business owners to do better. Thank you dolphins!
Pete’s Pizza Pasta Café & Bar Part of the Sorya Guesthouse on the riverfront, which is ideal for catching the best Mekong sunsets. The menu is simple with pizzas and pastas, but really well executed. The staff is wonderful, attentive and treat you like old friends. They have got a nice travelers community vibe going on here, so after your meal stick around for a beer and meeting like minded travelers.
The German Restaurant Schnitzel and bratwurst may not be first on your mind in Cambodia, but sometimes you just need a break from rice and noodles. Schnitzel, German sausages and even goulash! Come on, you know you want this. Give it a try, but come hungry, because the portions are huge. The restaurant just moved to Road #09 close to the riverfront.
Heng Sim This typical Khmer eatery is a must-try! Eat shoulder to shoulder with the locals and taste what real Khmer food is about. Don’t feel intimidated by the local setting or else you’ll never eat real Khmer food. Besides, they are happy to serve travelers here. Perfect for a cheap, but satisfying lunch.
Street Three restaurant New kid on the block with a lot of potential and friendly prices. Owner Leon creates his own original and creative fusion cooking. Clean and fresh food, locally sourced ingredients and with plenty of vegan options. How about chocolate & banana spring rolls? Or maybe vegan banana & home made peanut butter spring rolls?
Mekong Mojo restaurant The first 100% plant-based vegan restaurant & bar in Kratie town. Finally a restaurant that offers real variation in vegan food. It’s actually quite difficult to find a (good) vegan restaurant in Cambodia, let alone in a provincial town. Now you get to sample real Khmer flavors as well instead of the regular avocado and mock meat burger dishes. Located right on the Kratie river front with views of Koh Trong Island.
Update January 2023:
Unfortunately Tokae and MLUB Putrea restaurant both had to close their doors due to the economical effects of the pandemic.
Tokae Restaurant Right in front of the Sammaki market on the corner of street #10 is a great place to hang out. This restaurant has always been popular, but the new owner Leon is turning the place around with good Khmer food and friendlier prices.
MLUB Putrea Noodle restaurant Can’t get enough of noodles, then this restaurant should be your choice in Kratie. Low priced, tasty homemade noodles and a nice mix of local and foreign visitors. Between street 5 and 6, one block away from the riverfront.
How to get to Kratie
In the past few years a lot has been done to improve the roads in Cambodia and nowadays Kratie is pretty much easy to reach from any direction. At least 3 daily buses leave Phnom Penh for the 6-7h drive to Kratie. Minivans coming in from Siem Reap take about 9h.
Especially during high season and public holidays it makes sense to book ahead to secure your seat(s). Just fill out your place of departure, your destination and travel date in the transport planner below. It will show the complete schedule and ticket price of all related transport. Make your choice and book instantly.
The town of Kratie is rather small so you probably won’t need any transport within the town’s limits. There are of course motodops (motor taxi’s) around and short trips will be no more than Khr2000=$0.50. The motodops can also be used for out of town ventures in which case you will have to bargain for a good price. Some guesthouses post standard motodop rates for common attractions.
Most guesthouses also rent out bicycles for $1-$2 depending on the quality of the material and motorbikes for $5-$8. Again you won’t need it in town, but for venturing out of town a bicycle will do very well as the surroundings of Kratie are pretty flat.
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