Once just recognized as a strategic stop on the way to Laos or Ratanakiri, the little riverside town of Kratie (krach-eh) on the northeastern part of Cambodia is fast becoming another tourist favorite. Old traditional Khmer style houses, French style buildings and tours of the Mekong River where the freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins have made their home, visitors who have originally planned to just stop over, find themselves extending their stay to take in the beauty and small town charm that is naturally Kratie’s.
Beautiful landscapes with lush foliage and roads lined with old Khmer houses make for a very pleasant afternoon stroll. Villagers going about their daily routine while the fishermen set out in their boats on the Mekong River gives the entire place an appeal that is quaint yet exceedingly charming.
What to see in Kratie
Deemed sacred by fishermen from both Vietnam and Cambodia, the Irrawaddy dolphins look like a cross between the common dolphin and the Beluga. They have no beak and can move their heads freely because of a very minimal fusion in vertebrae. They are generally slow swimmers and very inconspicuous, likely to be confused only with the dugong (manatee) or Finless Porpoise. They usually swim inland, preferring warm, shallow coastal waters which makes the Mekong River a perfect home for them.
Phnom Sambok Resort
A natural and historical resort located at the Thmor Kre Commune, the Phnom Sambok is related to several legends and folk stories as to its beginning. One version says that it once was found to be a rich gold mine after a revelation by a king named Cha Krey Sara Varman a son of Preah Bat Hathak Athi Reah Varman.
Another is that the mountain top of Sambok was the meditation place of two monks, Neak Voan and Nen Thun, students of the monk Neak Sen who was believed to be a teacher of the crocodiles. It was here that the two monks taught the local people in the arts of ritual potion making and animistic worship. Up to present day, people still flock to the mountain to worship and perform rituals.
Phnom Sam Bok at the foot of Mt. Sambok is the main tourist resort of Kratie province. Big ponds with clear waters and lush, green surroundings make for a peaceful retreat from busy city life. The mountain itself is habitat to huge, ancient trees and a plentiful avian population. There is also a concrete stairway from the mountain’s foot to the top where tourists may take in the view from a rest stop at the peak.
The 100-Column Pagoda
Located at Sam Bor District of Kratie, the 100-column Pagoda (Sar-sar -100 Pagoda) was built on the former site of the Royal Palace Temple of Sam Phu Borak Capital of the Chen La.
Here, tourists will see four Buddhist temples which are placed to face four different directions: the Vihear Lao faces the West, Vihear Sar Sar-100 faces the North, Vihear Kork Keut faces East, while the Vihear Kork faces the South ( today, only the base and a few marking stones remain of the South temple.)
The Pagoda itself was built in the year 1806 by Preah Ang Chan reachea II in memorial of his daughter who died after being swallowed by the crocodile known as Nen Thun.
One of the more modern resorts in Kratie, the Kampy Resort boasts of beautiful views of the Mekong river, large islets filled with green water plants, and perfect conditions for swimming with its stretch of sandy shores and clear, calm river waters that run through the resort grounds.
Guests get an occasional sighting of the Irrawaddy dolphins playing in the resort’s waters. There are also modern conveniences and attractive amenities for resort guests like floating cottages, soft drink shops, restaurants, island bridges, good security, emergency stations, and wide parking areas for cars and motos.
Facility upgrading projects are continually being carried out by the local tourist office to make the resort more attractive for both local and international visitors.