Why you should visit Kratie

Why you should visit Kratie

The small, sleepy town of Kratie is located on the River Mekong. Like Battambang, this is another off-the-beaten-track town that doesn’t make it on Cambodia travel itineraries. We stayed 2 days in Kratie and absolutely loved it! Kratie is famous for the Irrawady Dolphins and being able to get up close and personal with them. It’s a great place to enjoy rural Cambodia and unwind for a day or two.

In this post, you will find our favorite things to do and plenty of tips for your trip to Kratie. 

How to get there 

We got there by bus from  Phnom Penh which took around 7 hours. If you don’t mind paying a bit extra, you can travel from Phnom Penh to Kratie by hiring a private car and driver for the day. This is the most comfortable and quickest way to travel.  

If you want to go from Siem Reap to Kratie, you have to pass Pnohm Penh to change buses. Coming from anywhere else it’s best to go through Phnom Penh.

Where to stay

We stayed at the Star Backpackers Guesthouse which we highly recommend. Ideal place, friendly staff, great food, lovely roof terrace,… 

Irrawaddy dolphins 

The freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin is an endangered species throughout Asia, with shrinking numbers inhabiting stretches of the Mekong in Cambodia and Laos, and isolated pockets in Bangladesh and Myanmar. The dolphins can grow to 2.75m long and are recognizable by their bulging foreheads and small dorsal fins. They can live in fresh or saltwater, although they are seldom seen in the sea.

Before the civil war, locals say, Cambodia was home to as many as 1000 dolphins. However, during the Pol Pot regime, many were hunted for their oils, and their numbers continue to plummet even as drastic protection measures have been put in place, including a ban on fishing and commercial motorized boat traffic on much of the Mekong between Kratie and Stung Treng. The dolphins continue to die off at an alarming rate, and experts now estimate that there are only around 80 Irrawaddy dolphins left in the Mekong between Kratie and the Lao border.

The best place to see them is in Kampi, about 15km north of Kratie. You can arrange a tour at your hotel or go to the dolphin’s site by tuk-tuk. You can head out with a boat at any point throughout the day, if you have the option, the best time is early in the morning (7-8 a.m.) or just before sunset when the dolphins are the most active. At the time of writing, the tickets cost 9 USD per person or 7 USD per person for groups of three people or more (each boat can hold up to six people). 

Between the months of November and May, the boat trip lasts 60 minutes and 90 minutes between June and October (rainy season).  

Another option to see the dolphins is is to take a half-day kayaking tour. 

We did a boat tour early in the morning and saw dolphins, sometimes in groups of two or three, sometimes on their own. 

The Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre

Half an hour’s drive north along the river from the dolphin spot is a little tow called Sambor. Sambor is a small place but it’s home to the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre. This conservation project is dedicated to protecting the Cantor’s giant softshell turtle.
Populations of softshell turtles are endangered in Asia, where they are often eaten as a delicacy. The turtles come to the shore to nest, which makes them and their eggs and hatchlings exposed to humans.

A monk looks after the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre, where he helps to breed and nurture these rare freshwater turtles, before releasing them into the Mekong when they are ready. Luckily, his work has helped to bring this species back from the brink of extinction and educate the local people about turtle conservation. 

You can get to the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre by tuk-tuk. The Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre is open from 8.30 am – 4.30 pm daily and the entrance fee is 4 USD, with all proceeds going to the NGO.

100 Pillar Pagoda

Right next to the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre, you will find the 480-year-old historical treasure that is the 100 Pillar Pagoda. Also known as the 100 Columns Pagoda, it’s one of the most beautiful and largest temples in Cambodia. 

100 years after the temple was originally built, it was struck by lightning, which caused 22 columns to burn down and the statues to become black with some. Because of this, the temple was pulled down and rebuilt by the local people, but they only built it to have 78 columns. It has since been reconstructed again, and now has 116 columns. 

Inside the pagoda are 4 Buddhist temples, each facing a different direction. The inside of each temple is covered in colorful paintings. 

Phnom Sambok Pagoda

Located about 10 km north of Kratie town, the Phnom Sambok Pagoda is perched up high on a hill. To visit the temple you will need to make your way up 300 stairs, which are lined by a series of impressive monk statues. As a reward for the climb, you will get a fantastic view of the rolling countryside below. 

It’s a great place to check out on the way to the dolphins at Kampi or on the way back to Kratie town after visiting the 100 Pillar Pagoda and Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre. 

Kampi Rapids

Close to where you can see the dolphins is a picnic area called Kampi Rapids. It’s a good place to enjoy good Khmer food, and relax for a while. It attracts a lot of visitors due to its beautiful streams where visitors can swim and bathe and relax. 

You can only visit the Kampi Rapids during the dry season from January to May.  

Explore the riverside and streets

You could easily pass away several hours just walking around Kratie, exploring and taking in the relaxed atmosphere. It has a long picturesque riverfront. It’s the perfect place to see some of the most stunning sunsets on the River Mekong. 

The boulevard lining the riverside is really pretty and gets busier with food and drink stands towards evening time. It’s a great place to hang out with the locals and see them socializing, jogging, or enthusiastically doing aerobics. Just back from the waterfront are some side streets leading to the central market which is surrounded by French Colonial buildings. Around the central market are some nice restaurants. 

Koh Trong

During the dray season, a visit to the Koh Trong Island, which is located opposite the waterfront of Kratie, is great for those in search of a little adventure. You can take the small ferry across the water for a quick swim. But the most popular thing to do here is to hire a bike on the island and explore the beaches and fishing villages. 

It takes about 15 minutes to reach the island on a small wooden public ferry and costs 0.25 USD. The ferry goes every 30 minutes throughout the day, from below the Jasmine Boat Restaurant on the riverside. The last ferry back to Kratie is at 5.30 pm. 

Once on the island, there are several options for exploring it. Local guys offering moto rides wait for the boat to dock and will take you around the island for 5 USD or you could rent a bicycle for 2 USD which we recommend. At the information center, you can get a map with points of interest on the island. The entire circuit is around 9 km, so easily cyclable. 

The island is home to mainly farming and fishing families and is lush, unspoiled, and beautiful. Charming wooden houses on stilts are surrounded by market gardens full of all types of fruit and vegetables. There are also a couple of places to eat on the island.  The islanders were very friendly and welcoming. We had a great time with the locals! 

For those who love nature, wildlife, and outdoor activities, Kratie is the perfect location.

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