A tatty yet alluring colonial town on the Mekong River, not far from the Laos border, Kratie is one of a handful of places left in the world to spot the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin.
Kratie (pronounced "kra-cheh") is a dusty but thoroughly likable little town on the Mekong River. As in many Cambodian towns, life here tends to congregate along the riverfront, where some tatty but atmospheric French colonial buildings still cluster around the port, lit up nightly by some of the finest Mekong sunsets to be seen anywhere.
A short ferry ride from here will take you to the island of Koh Trong, literally “King’s Island”, a three-kilometre sandbar in the Mekong and a little slice of rural paradise. Here, the locals still get around by horse-drawn cart, and you can spend your days visiting stilt houses surrounded by banana palms, relaxing on sandy river beaches, cycling beneath giant mango trees, and perhaps even catching a glimpse of a rare Mekong turtle.
Turtles aren’t the only wildlife in Kratie, however, and Irrawaddy dolphin-spotting is what this region is most famous for. Traditionally believed to be part-human and part-fish, these charismatic dolphins are now an endangered species, having been hunted almost to extinction for their oils during the civil war. Thankfully, tourism has now replaced hunting, but even so, there are only 90 or so dolphins left in the world, and Kratie is the best place in the world to spot them.