I don’t have a ton to say about Kratie. I got there at around 3 p.m. and it was my first stop in Cambodia. I mainly decided to stop in Kratie because I heard that Stung Treng is boring, and I didn’t want to go all the way to Phnom Penh since I didn’t want to arrive alone in the big city at night with all my shit since that kind of thing always sucks. Kratie is a riverside town, and I had a nice riverside hotel with a balcony overlooking the Mekong for $7.
I walked around downtown Kratie a bit, and I instantly noticed that a lot of local women wear pajamas during the day. I’ve seen this in other places in Cambodia, but not to the same level I saw it in Kratie. I also got a cheap Cambodian SIM card in town, but I mostly spent the afternoon on my balcony.
I had a pretty lousy night. It was pouring down rain, just unrelenting waves so that definitely contributed. I also had a terrible meal. I got a Khmer-style chicken curry, and it was basically inedible, easily the worst meal of the whole trip so far. I was starving but I could only finish half. Fortunately, the local Cambodian food I’ve had since has been far better. I attempted to leave the riverfront and walk to the city center, but it was deserted at 8 p.m., totally turned over to the large and ill-tempered stray dogs. I ended up just going back to my room to watch TV.
Despite what Lonely Planet says, it’s easy to get from southern Laos to Cambodia. There is a bus that starts in Pakse and stops at the port near Don Det. It cost 23 U.S. dollars to get from Don Dot to Kratie. The bus also stops at Stung Treng, and goes all the way to Phnom Penh. Border formalities are taken care of at the port town near Don Det – a guy who works for the bus company collects everybody’s passport and provides the necessary paperwork. A flat $30 covers the Cambodian visa fee along with all the bribes collected by the Lao border officials, Cambodian border officials, and the bus company itself.
If I had to do it over again, I would probably bite the bullet and take the bus all the way to Phnom Penh from Don Dot. Kratie’s main appeals were the river views and the awesome breakfast (best bacon I’ve ever had in Asia) at the Red Sun Falling restaurant. Though it was my only real look at small-town Cambodia, it probably isn’t even a very accurate look at that, because for some reason foreign travelers or expats are everywhere in Kratie. Like in Angeles, I’m sure my perception was skewed by the lousy weather, but I’m still not in any hurry to get back to Kratie.