As the minibus rolls up to the office, you’re greeted by the staff and delivered a buffet of Khmer delicacies before you begin the tour around the humble Mekong River town of Kratie. Located in northeastern Cambodia, Kratie is around 4-5 hours away from Phnom Penh, which can easily be organised through a tour company. With dolphins, a homestay experience, and catching a glimpse of the Irrawaddy Dolphins in a traditional Khmer fishing boat, Kratie defines the real taste of Cambodian life. This is a part of a tour, organised by the Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT) that involves showing and taking part in the work that they do in Kratie, in hopes of benefiting impoverished lives in the province.
Enter the real side of Cambodia at Koh Pdao
Koh Pdao is an island during the rainy season, but a huge chunk of land in the dry season that you can drive across to. If you are visiting during the rainy season, you’d have to go by boat to arrive at the island, roughly a 30-45 minute journey across the swollen Mekong, in a small fishing boat. Upon arrival, you are greeted by the village elder, who begins the tour of his village on the island, explaining the work CRDT has done for the community. One of the highlights is the CRDT-funded school on Koh Pdao that has improved the lives of hundreds of children. From here, you are also shown your new home for the next 2 days: a wooden construction made with stilts to keep the house afloat, should the Mekong swell further, surrounded by farm animals.
The ultimate experience of a homestay
Your bed for the next two days is a hard wooden floor with a thin silk mattress, along with a cat or two to keep you company. Sometimes the farm animals, cows, ducks, and goats, will wake you up in the middle of the night with their noises and movements, but it’s all a part of the experience. While you’re there, you’ll get to meet the house owners who will try and communicate with you, despite not being able to speak English. The shower is the Mekong River when the water runs out, and one by one the ladies, or men of the house depending on your gender, will take you to the river to wash. Be careful not to put any of the water in your mouth though! In addition, you’ll be given a bicycle to explore the island, and the different homes dotted along the banks of the Mekong, as well as the rice paddies and water buffalo roaming the countryside.
Gaze upon the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins
With just over 80 of these species left, the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins are the final part of the tour. CRDT supports the dolphins by changing the habits of the fishermen in the area, providing them with safe fishing tools as to not harm the dolphins in the future for example, and conserving the areas of the river the dolphins reside in. After being taken far out into the thick of the Mekong, the engines will stop, then at once they all rise. Some will run alongside your boat so you can get up close and personal with them, with many of them making endearing noises, and splashing their tails at the boats. After you’ve seen one of the most popular attractions of Kratie, you’ll be brought back for a final meal before finishing your CRDT tour, thanking the staff and saying goodbyes.
Get the real feel of Kratie with a CRDT Tour
From the dolphins to the authentic homestay experience, surrounded by true aspects of Cambodian life away from the bustle of it’s capital, Kratie is the perfect getaway for those with four or five days to spare in Cambodia. Kratie is 4-5 hours away from Phnom Penh, with CRDT on hand to answer any enquiries about travel arrangements, and their various programs that run across many different provinces in Cambodia. With CRDT, you are also supporting their charity work in improving the lives of Cambodians, and the wildlife within the provinces of Cambodia, and as we all know, every penny counts.
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