A rural province of the same name, life in Kratie centres on the charming town located on the banks of the Mekong River.
While it is possible to explore the agricultural land and wildlife sanctuaries elsewhere in the province, the heart of this region is very much in the town and alongside the Mekong River, which flows all the way through the province. In fact, 80% of Kratie Province’s population lives along the banks of the Mekong. While the town itself is full of French colonial elegance, the river is home to endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and hundreds of islands.
Make the absolute most of the gorgeous Kratie town and explore the urban centre on foot, by bicycle or by moto. As well as exploring the town centre, it’s possible to follow the riverside in either direction and pass through villages of local indigenous tribes too. It’s also possible to embark on longer cycling or motorcycling journeys along the Mekong Riverside Trail – with homestays and authentic stops along the way.
Many people love wandering around Kratie town and the surrounding area to enjoy the old French colonial architecture and numerous temples. Wat Sray Sahn-tah-rah-boh is one of the prettiest temples, located by the river.
One of the Mekong’s islands is just across the water from Kratie town and is a magical place to visit. Catch a ferry to Koh Trong from the boat dock in Kratie, then hire a bicycle or a moto. This is a place to soak up simple island living, with a floating village to explore and a stupa worth paying a visit to. There is also homestay accommodation on the island, making it the perfect place to become immersed in local culture.
On the outskirts of Kratie town is the Buddhist temple of Wat Roka Kandal. Phnom Sombok is another small temple just outside of town. It is a worth to visit.
Many people come to Kratie to see the endangered Irrawaddy river dolphins. The best place to spot the dolphins is from Kampi, just outside of Kratie town, where motorboat excursions are on offer to see them. It’s also possible to go on kayaking dolphin watching trips for those who like to be closer to the water while enjoying some physical activity.
The temple grounds at Wat Sorsor Moi Roi are also home to the Mekong Turtle Conservation Centre. The centre is home to a number of turtle species, including some incredibly rare ones, including Cantor’s giant softshell turtle. This turtle was believed to have gone extinct, but was rediscovered in 2007, and has been fiercely protected ever since. Baby turtles are hatched and cared for until they can be released into the wild – an amazing event visitors can witness if they come along when the centre is planning to release a group of turtles.
Bird watching is also a popular pastime in Kratie Province, since there are a number of interesting birds to be seen, including the Mekong Wagtail. These may be spotted when you’re out on the water for a dolphin watching trip, or embark on a dedicated bird-watching excursion. Chum Pey waterfall is a pretty place to visit, with a large rock pool at the bottom and hundreds of colourful orchids. Monks meditate at nearby Rut Cham Pey, where they have also arranged a number of interesting statues depicting the cycle of life.
Kratie Market is a lively hub of the town and is a fascinating place to explore. As well as watching locals going about their daily lives, this is also a great place to find handicrafts made locally in the province. Also head down to the riverfront to look at what the CEDAC Shop has on offer. This is run by a local NGO and there is usually a cacophony of interesting local products on sale, from food products such as local honey, rice and juice, to hand-made hats and other handicrafts.
To soak up some local music, pay a visit to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, which runs occasional musical performances. Kratie Province has a proud tradition of basket weaving and it’s possible to visit villages known for this craft surrounding Kratie town. One of these villages is Chheu Teil Ploch – home of the indigenous Cham people. For an alternative market option, head to the village of Chhlong, where there is another bustling daily market selling handicrafts as well as food. For total immersion in local cultures, Kratie is an area where a number of homestay options are available. Either head out to one of the indigenous villages surrounding Kratie town, or find homestay accommodation on one of the islands on the Mekong, such as Koh Trong or Koh Pdao.
The Khmer New Year is the most celebrated event in Cambodia, which happens in April around the harvest season for three days. Over the course of the festival, numerous religious rituals take place in temples and pagodas.
In the rural area of Kratie, other celebrations are most a family affair. It is possible to visit temples and pagodas to see how locals mark the occasion there – remember to dress respectfully. Some Khmer families visit hotels and a few establishments that remain open for the holiday, so this where to head for a festive atmosphere.
A range of traditional Cambodian food, plus some international options, are available in Kratie. There are a couple of specialities the locality is known for – a raw river fish served in banana leaves called nehm, and sticky rice, beans and coconut milk steamed inside bamboo vessels known as krolan. Both can be found in abundance across the town. Other food typically eaten here is chicken curry served with vegetables, and plenty of fish dishes – given the proximity of the Mekong River.
For street food, the market has a thriving ion of food stalls in the evening, with a great range of delicacies on offer.
For those who like a few drinks in the evening, the liveliest place in Kratie is the riverfront, where many people hang on after eating for a drink or two.