It is possible to visit Kratie on a day trip from Stung Treng, which is three hours away. However, Kratie’s quiet charm and the warmth of the local people coaxes many people to extend their stay for several days in order to explore fully and enjoy the tranquillity.
Kratie was developed by French colonialists towards the end of the 19th century and as you explore you will discover a number of French colonial buildings nestled alongside traditional wooden Cambodian houses.
Tragically, there are less than a hundred Irrawaddy Dolphins play in the waters of the mighty Mekong. A good time to spot them is at sunset and you can hire a boat and driver to take you out onto the river.
Perhaps the best way to fully explore Kratie is by hiring a bicycle from one of the many guesthouses. Cycle to the pretty pagoda of Sasar Moy Roy with its 100 pillars. According to legend this pagoda holds the ashes of a princess who was killed by a crocodile more than 500 years ago.
Climb the steps to the top of Phnom Sambok for fantastic views of the river and surrounding countryside and visit the traditional Cambodian temple of Wat Roka Kandal. Forget about noisy motos, horse and cart is the main form of transport in Kratie and this is an interesting way to get around and see the sights.
There are a number of pretty islands close to Kratie such as Koh Trong and Kho Pdao. As you explore you will also discover a number of floating villages, where you can watch fish being caught in the traditional way and perhaps buy the catch of the day to be cooked at one of the local restaurants.
The sunsets over Kratie are simply spectacular and many people gather in the evening to watch the dying of the day. Enjoy freshly caught river fish at one of the many riverside restaurants and wash it down with a beer or two for the perfect end to a relaxing day.
The people of Nan were originally from Laos, and the area is full of rich history, culture and interesting architecture. To discover more about the area, a good place to start is the Nan National Museum, whilst the many temples display both Thai and Laos temple art. Temples not to miss include Wat Phrathat Beng Sakat, Wat Phra That Chae Haeng, Wat Nong Daeng, at Chang Kham and the spectacular Wat Phaya Wat.
A good way to get an idea of the area's beauty is to visit one of the enormous and lush national parks. There are plenty of stunningly beautiful parks to choose from, including the Khun Nan National Park, Nanthaburi National Park, Tham Pha Tup Forest Park and the incredible Doi Phu Kha National Park, which contains caves, waterfalls, remote villages and picturesque forest walks.
Many visitors travel to the Mae Charim National Park in order to go white water rafting. This exciting adventure sport is also available through Nam Wa Rafting. The 'Earth Pillars' at Sin Thao are very popular and the Ban Pak Nai Fisherman Village offers an insight into a traditional and relaxed way of life.
Another popular activity is trekking, and it is easy to arrange a three day trek into the mountains, stopping overnight at one of the many small villages or at specially constructed cabins beside a flowing waterfall.
40 kilometres to the north of the town is the pretty little village of Ban Nong Bua. The village is home to the Thai Lu people, who are noted for producing traditional patterned tribal fabric. Ban Bo Suak Kiln Site and Glazed Ceramics is another interesting village, where you can see traditional pottery skills still being employed, and you can dine in one of the converted wooden rafts in the sleepy village Ban Pak Nai, located about 96 kilometres from the town of Nan.
There are many interesting festivals that are enthusiastically celebrated in Nan. The Hok Peng Waisa Mahathat Chae Haen Fair takes place on the full moon night of the 6th northern lunar month or the 4th central lunar month (around the end of February-March). During
this festival, sky rockets are fired as an offering to the Buddha. Another long awaited celebration is the Nan Boat Races. This tradition began in 1936, when boat racing was organized during the community's robe presentation to the monks after the end of the Buddhist Lent. Nowadays, it takes place around mid-October each year. At the opening of the races food offerings are presented to the priests by drawing lots at Wat Chang Kham Worawihan. After this there is much celebrating and the much loved boat racing, where teams of oarsmen race along the Mae Nam Nan in long, beautifully decorated dragon prow boats.