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Rattanakiri
1.Introduction

Ratanakiri is located in Cambodia's far northeast bordered by Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east, Mondulkiri to the south, and Stung Treng to the west. This rural rugged province is a 70% ethnic minority, which are known as "Chunchiet". Ratanakiri was as recently as 2002 seriously off the beaten track but has since been "discovered" step by step. Still, while you won't get any bragging rights for coming here, it's well worth the effort to do so, and once you get away from it's capital Banlung you won't run into too many other tourists. So Ratanakiri is still a remote province in Northeastern Cambodia worth to visit. The word "Ratanakiri" itself is a derivative of two Cambodian words, which are combined to mean "place of gems and mountains." The word comes from the Sanskrit words Ratna (gem) and giri (mountain).

It's quite dusty capital, Banlung, is located in the central highlands of the province, approximately 365 miles (586 kilometres) from Phnom Penh and reminds one of a wild western city, even if it's the wild east. Its wide red laterite roads are bordered by new, recently build houses replacing the older ones. The centre of the town features a lively marked with all the needful things.

Lomphat is a small town in the southern plains, which was once the former capital of Ratanakiri. There are a few other small towns like Ta Veng and Voen Sai. The province is getting more and more popular for thousands of tourist every year. Especially for those, who seek a close contact to originality, hidden roots of ethnic groups and abundant wildlife. Therefore the Ecotourism abounds, due to lush wildlife and remote tribal villages. Most of the inhabitants of Ratanakiri are indigenous minorities.

Ethnic Cambodians make up only 10-20% of the country's total population. Remnants of an ancient volcano exist near to Banlung in the form of a crystal-clear lake that was formed after the active volcano went dormant. There are also a few ancient lava fields that testify to the fact that the area was quite lively at one time. Beautiful waterfalls, clear rivers winding through stretches of jungle, and rolling hills that meet mountains near the Vietnamese and Lao border provide a full agenda for nature lovers. Non-structured, low-impact, custom trips to outlying villages and natural areas can be organized (strictly by yourself or with help from a guesthouse).

There is a few foreigners living in Banlung you'll definitely meet while walking in the streets you can ask for actual tour offers, prices etc (change spontaneously). You will soon realize that this area hasn't seen a lot of tourists in the past. If you will visit the hill tribe people in the further areas outside of Banlung, don't be surprised if they look appalled at you. They just haven't seen many, if any, foreigners.

Yeak Laom Volcano Lake: This beautiful place is not far from town and is great for a swim, picnic, or hike around the crater rim of the old volcano. Due to the lake's tremendous depth of 48 meters, its water is exceptionally clean and crystal clear. The lake is almost perfectly round and measures around 750 meters in diameter. It has a small informative local museum thrown in to boot. In 1995 the governor of Ratanakiri officially set aside a 5,000-hectare (12,350-acre) protected area, of which the lake is a part, and in 1996 got help from the International Development and Research Centre of Canada and the United Nations Development Program to develop an effective resource management program.

This area represents Cambodia's finest attempt at preserving a site. Full-time rangers work to ensure the area is protected. They receive regular training and have put up signs throughout the area reminding people not too littler, wash clothes or toilet in the lake. That's amazing for Cambodia. The main swimming and picnic area features a nice wood deck that's great to use for a jump into the crystal clean water. Nearby, park rangers erected a couple of examples of hill tribe construction in the form of non politically correct bride and groom homes, where the man gets the elevated home (his status in the relationship) and the woman has the one nearer to the ground.

A few hundred meters down is the Cultural and Environmental Centre, which has information about area history and displays of local hill tribe tools and handiwork. They also sell some of the handicrafts made by the hill tribes: musical instruments, beaded belts, shirts, and hats. From the centre you can take a nature trail around the entire crater rim. King Sihanouk had a chalet built on the shores of the lake and used it during the 1960s. It was destroyed in the 1970 war between the Lon Nol government and Khmer Rouge guerrillas.

You can still see the remnants of this and also-indifferent spots around the lake-trenches that held gun emplacements during the fighting. The original inhabitants of the area are the Khmer Leu hill tribe people, who have always recognized the lake as a sacred place, home to the spirits of the land, water, and forest. Here those spirits interact with humans and, according to the local legend of Yeak Laom Lake, fabulous, spiritual aquatic beings reside here.

The surrounding forests of the area are also said to be the home of spirits and therefore can't be cut. This helps to explain why the hill tribe people took so strongly to the idea of protecting the area. It's very easy to get there - just go east from the Independence Monument circle 3 km to the Hill Tribe Monument circle (two indigenous figures) and go right for about 1,5 km to the entrance gate. The local hill tribe community connected to the lake get to collect an entrance fee, giving them a source of income and revenue for protecting their resource. It?s US$1 per person and a few hundred riels for a motorcycle. 

2.Geography

Ratanakiri is located in Cambodia's far northeast bordered by Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east, Mondulkiri to the south, and Stung Treng to the west. This rural rugged province is a 70% ethnic minority, which are known as "Chunchiet". Ratanakiri was as recently as 2002 seriously off the beaten track but has since been "discovered" step by step. Still, while you won't get any bragging rights for coming here, it's well worth the effort to do so, and once you get away from it's capital Banlung you won't run into too many other tourists. So Ratanakiri is still a remote province in Northeastern Cambodia worth to visit. The word "Ratanakiri" itself is a derivative of two Cambodian words, which are combined to mean "place of gems and mountains." The word comes from the Sanskrit words Ratna (gem) and giri (mountain).

Ratanakiri is situated on the north - east plateau (approx. altitude around 200-400 metres), 636 Km from Phnom Penh. It is bordering Vietnam on the east, Laos PDR on the North, Steung Treng province on the West and Mondulkiri on the South. There are two bigger rivers crossing the province ( Sre Pork and Sresan River ). The total area of Ratanakiri is about 10,782 square kilometres. 

3.Climate

Ratanakiri is located in Cambodia's far northeast bordered by Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east, Mondulkiri to the south, and Stung Treng to the west. This rural rugged province is a 70% ethnic minority, which are known as "Chunchiet". Ratanakiri was as recently as 2002 seriously off the beaten track but has since been "discovered" step by step. Still, while you won't get any bragging rights for coming here, it's well worth the effort to do so, and once you get away from it's capital Banlung you won't run into too many other tourists. So Ratanakiri is still a remote province in Northeastern Cambodia worth to visit. The word "Ratanakiri" itself is a derivative of two Cambodian words, which are combined to mean "place of gems and mountains." The word comes from the Sanskrit words Ratna (gem) and giri (mountain). 

Ratanakiri Province has a climate like the other areas in the country, there are 3 seasons:

  • Rainy season: June - October (<27c)
  • Cool season  : November - February (>24c)
  • Hot season   : March - May Temperature: from 20c -32c Ratanakiri's average temperature throughout the year is definately lower than in the other areas of Cambodia (except Mondulkiri Province).

 

4.Population

Ratanakiri is located in Cambodia's far northeast bordered by Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east, Mondulkiri to the south, and Stung Treng to the west. This rural rugged province is a 70% ethnic minority, which are known as "Chunchiet". Ratanakiri was as recently as 2002 seriously off the beaten track but has since been "discovered" step by step. Still, while you won't get any bragging rights for coming here, it's well worth the effort to do so, and once you get away from it's capital Banlung you won't run into too many other tourists. So Ratanakiri is still a remote province in Northeastern Cambodia worth to visit. The word "Ratanakiri" itself is a derivative of two Cambodian words, which are combined to mean "place of gems and mountains." The word comes from the Sanskrit words Ratna (gem) and giri (mountain).

There are 8 different hill tribes ethnic groups in Ratanakiri. Most of them live in the deeper jungle, on the hills and covered mountains in small separated villages. Usualy they make their living through traditional ways of cultivation (shifting agriculture), hunting and collecting fruits from the forest is a must. These old cultures believe in spirits, derived from their animism beliefs. In the whole province there are 63,333 male and 64,774 female with a total of 128,107 inhabitants living. This is 11.8 inhabitans/km.

5.Economy

The vast majority of the indigenous peoples living in Ratanakiri are subsistence farmers, who are planting rice, corn, pumpkins etc. Some of them grow an additional catch crop such as peanuts or cashews. There is quite a number of wealthy Cambodians and Vietnamese, who own large plantations surrounding the capital of Banlung. Most of them plant peanuts, coffee, or cashews.

Additionally, Ratanakiri boasts hundreds of square miles of lucrative rubber plantations, of which rubber is mostly exported to neighbouring Vietnam. Due to the present reconstruction of the Cambodian National Highway 19, which runs through the center of the capital of Banlung, the area's trade with Vietnam will soon rise. Anyhow Ratanakiri is so sparsely populated that the Provincial capital does not have an adequate market compete to other provinces of Cambodia. But in mineral wealth alone, Ratanakiri boasts gold, gemstones, granite and onyx. Fertile red soil, water sources, wild animals and quality hardwoods abound and the weather and scenery are perennial assets. 

6. How to Get There

Air Flying is, of course, the easiest way to go. There are only 2 flights per week. For more detail, please contact a travel agent. Share Taxi The share taxi pickup trucks only go from Banlung to Stung Treng. Bring food, water, and mosquito repellent, because if there is a breakdown on this quite bumpy backwoods road you may be caught in the jungle for the night (especially during the rainy season). Share taxis usually go in groups in case of a breakdown, but anyhow the other vehicles are usually full as well, so people do get stranded sometimes. The five-hour trip stretches mostly to seven hours for share taxis during the rainy season. The fare is about 35,000 riel per person for an inside seat. Banlung to Stung Treng The 146-km journey from Banlung to Stung Treng takes around 5-7 hours during the rainy season, so knock at least an hour off for the dry season.

The road is generally lousy, passing through areas of bomb craters that create deep lakes during the rainy season, but you can skirt around the perimeter of most of them. Where you can't, the road goes zigzagging through the jungle, and is slow and slippery in the wet months. However, there are a few decent stretches, and the last 19 km on Highway 7 are fairly easy ones. It's certainly not one of the better roads, but it's not the worst either. There is some nice scenery, but as with other bad highways around Cambodia, you are usually too preoccupied with the road to enjoy it unless you stop. The same suggestion we made in the share taxi section applies for riders on this road. Bring food, water and mosquito repellent.

If you have a breakdown there may not be anyone else coming by, depending on the time of day. It's always best to get an early start to improve your chances if you do have a problem. Banlung to Mondulkiri If you come from Stung Treng and want to try the back trail to Mondulkiri (Sen Monorom) and it's the rainy season, read the Death Highway chapter. Or follow the simple advice we gave in the Mondulkiri section: don't do it. There is a bunch of small splitting trails leading nowhere! In the dry season, it's a tough trail that will put your riding skills to the test. Make sure you have spare parts for your motorcycle (see Biker Checklist in Getting Around chapter), and bring plenty of food and drinking water. The trip will take around two days during the dry season. Koh Nheak town (near halfway) is the only place that sells bottled water and some food. Fuel is also available. Don't do it alone. It?s best to have some help if you have a breakdown or a mishap. You are a long way from help in most stretches of this remote trail. It would also be best to bring along a Khmer speaker as the trail sometimes intersects with other trails and you will want to clarify that you took the proper way when you do come across somebody.

It's definitely an adventure, so if you try to tackle it be fully prepared so you have an opportunity to enjoy it. Security these days has not been a problem. Stung Treng/Lao border - Banlung This is definitely a tour you can only manage by motorcycle and during the try season. The road is just a dirt trail, which will testify your advanced riding skills. (Be prepared with spare parts for your bike, a lot of water and some food. If you?re not able to speak Khmer, better bring a Khmer speaking guide or a phrase book along to be able to communicate, as it gets sometimes quite necessary. )

Starting from Stung Treng you have to take the national highway No. 7 to the north (Lao border). Just 10km before the border you have to take a dirt trail, which splits from the main road to the right. Now you have to challenge 130km of dirt trail, passing quite a few villages, such as Siem Pang, Samong, Phum Bah Ke Toch and Veun Sai. On the way you have to cross several small rivers by little boats, so make sure you bring enough change to pay the villagers. Almost every village sells fuel and bottled water. Reaching Veun Sai you have made the hard part of the trip, the further laterite surface road to Banlung is just a 45km ride. 

7.What to See

Beung Yeak Laom is located in Yeak Loam commune, Ban Loung district, about 5 kilometers south of Ban Loung provincial town. A lake in the middle of a mountain, it was formed many centuries ago from a volcano. The lake is about 800 meters in diameter and 48 meters deep during the dry season. The water is clear and suitable for swimming.

There are two places along the bank where visitors can relax and enjoy a panoramic view of the lake and the flora and fauna. A tourist information center is on the west bank, and handicrafts made by hill tribes living nearby are available for sale.

Beung Yeak Laom is a place of worship for the hill tribes. They believe there is a powerful spirit who owns the surrounding land and forest. Beung Yeak Laom is popular with tourists who like to swim or hike in the forest surrounding the lake. Because there are no vendors, visitors should
bring along their own food and beverages.

Is the natural lake, which locates at the middle of mountain in Yeak Loam Commune, Ban Lung district from the Ban Lung town. The lake has square shape, approximate 800m diameter and 48m depth during the dry season, and occurs by volcano for centuries. The lake has clear water as the sea suitable for swimming, and there are tow harbors protruded to the above of the water for tourists to view the scenary and birds that are swimming along the stretch of the forest surrounding the lake. information to tourists, and also for displaying souvenirs and handicrafts made by ethnic minorities.

At the western bank of the lake, there is a tourist information center where for guiding and giving information center where for guiding and giving information to tourists, and also for displaying souvenirs and handicrafts made by ethnic minorities.

Beung Yeak Laom is located in Yeak Laom commune, Ban Loung district, about 5 kilometers south of Ban Loung provincial town. A lake in the middle of a mountain, it was formed many centuries ago from volcano. The lake is about 800 meters in diameter and 48 meters deep during about dry season. The water is clear and suitable for swimming.

Boeung Yak Loam is a natural, almost square-shaped lake situated in the middle of a mountain in Ban Lung District, 5km from Rattanakiri provincial town. The lake is approximately 800m in diameter with a depth of 48m during the dry season, and was created by volcanic movements centuries ago. Boeung Yak Loam has picturesque mountainous scenery, a charming bird sanctuary and provides the visitor with an opportunity to experience the daily life of local hill-tribe people. 

8.Where to Eat

The American Restaurant:

It's an unlikely name for a restaurant with the best food in town. It turns out that an American used to be the owner and cook of the place. He taught the staff to cook the Western dishes on the menu and also to be meticulous in the cleanliness of the place. They got the idea, as it's a simple but well taken care of restaurant. If you've been in the bush a while, they serve up a mean hamburger with all of the trimmings of a California Burger with tasty fries on the side. There are plenty of choices of Western and Khmer food and if you want something special made up for you, the friendly staffs are happy to accommodate you. Open all day. The restaurant rents Honda Dream motorcycles for US$ 5 a day.

Banlung Guesthouse Restaurant:

Situated Next to the airport. They serve Khmer, Western and Thai food throughout the day, starting with breakfast. It's a friendly place and the food is good. Market Food Stands: Located near the market and share taxi area is a bunch of simple noodle and rice dish shops, if you want to eat the cheap way.

Gengliang's Place:

Located 5,5 km from the Independence Monument on the road toward the Vietnamese border, is an outdoor restaurant set amid trees and a small stream in a valley. It?s a nice, simple setting that serves up a very good Vietnamese noodle and curry cold dish. They have a few other treats, as well as fresh fruit and drinks. The name of the friendly Khmer owner of the place is Gangling and she speaks French.  

9.Where to Stay

Banlung Guesthouse: Situated near the market. Very clean rooms with a share bath go for US$ 3.

Banlung Guesthouse: Near the airport. This friendly place has fan rooms with a bathroom inside for US$ 5 and a/c rooms for US$ 10. They have a restaurant and can arrange guided trips to the local attractions and beyond. They also have guides who speak the various hill tribe dialects and can take you to some outlying villages.

They rent Honda Dreams for US$ 5 a day and also a pickup truck with a driver for US$ 50 a day, including the fuel. They are currently trying to reorganize their elephant trekking after the recent death of the elephant that was normally used. Mountain Guesthouse: (tel. 075/974047) Fairly decent simple rooms are available at US$ 5 a night for a room with a fan and bathroom. The walls are paper-thin so watch the hanky-panky; they have a small restaurant that serves breakfast. They also have Honda Dreams for rent at US$ 5 a day. The English-speaking owner of the place helps you to organize trekking tours if you?re interested. Mountain Guesthouse 2: This is run by the sister of the owner of the similarly named place mentioned above. They have Spartan accommodations that are not well cleaned for US$ 5. There is a funky share bath area.

The upside is a nice second-floor terrace and they also serve breakfast. Lebanese Hotel: With no staff anywhere to be found on the three occasions when we stopped by, it is not recommended. Belongings can easily disappear if nobody is minding the store. Rattan Hotel: (tel. 012/958322) It?s the highest building in town, but that isn't saying much. They did some remodelling in the front outside area of the building, but the rooms are the same as before. Rooms in front have a terrace and window overlooking the street. They have and attached Western bath, double or twin beds with a/c for US$ 10 a night. It?s a clean place, but when we went through, not overly friendly. Terres Rouge Lodge: ( tel. 075/974051) It's a quite traditional equipped hotel with 12 rooms, which show Khmer textiles and artefacts. The lake view gives the visitor an idea of having real holidays.

Only disadvantage is the 4km ride to the centre of Banlung. The room rates are: US$30 for a single room, US$35 double room, around US$40 for a room with two single beds and US$50 for the suite. You need to place a reservation in advance. Tribal Hotel: (tel. 075/974074) It's near the centre of Banlung on the road, which lets out of the town in direction to the Yak Laom Lake. There are plenty of rooms on different rates: single room US$5-6, double room with two single beds US$7, bigger double rooms are available for around US$10. All rooms have a bathroom and TV; some have a little balcony and AC. You may ask the owner for Internet connection as well as for help organizing a tour in the area. 

10.Shopping

Ratanakiri is located in Cambodia's far northeast bordered by Laos to the north, Vietnam to the east, Mondulkiri to the south, and Stung Treng to the west. This rural rugged province is a 70% ethnic minority, which are known as "Chunchiet". Ratanakiri was as recently as 2002 seriously off the beaten track but has since been "discovered" step by step. Still, while you won't get any bragging rights for coming here, it's well worth the effort to do so, and once you get away from it's capital Banlung you won't run into too many other tourists. So Ratanakiri is still a remote province in Northeastern Cambodia worth to visit. The word "Ratanakiri" itself is a derivative of two Cambodian words, which are combined to mean "place of gems and mountains." The word comes from the Sanskrit words Ratna (gem) and giri (mountain).

A shopping spree starts at the Banlung market. Shopping bargains can be found on intricate stone, woodcarvings, gemstones and other varieties of goods. Many goods are brought in by tribes, like baskets, crossbows, gourds (water containers), bracelets, necklaces, clothes and pipes from the outskirts of the town, which make for an interesting and very colourful morning stroll.

11.City Map

 


Tourist Attractions in Rattanakiri

Beung Yeak Laom
Beung Yeak Laom is located in Yeak Loam commune, Ban Loung district, about 5 kilometers south of Ban Loung provincial town. A lake in the middle of a mountain, it was formed many centuries ago from a volcano. The lake is about 800 meters in diameter and 48 meters deep during the dry season. The water is clear and suitable for ...
Cha Ong waterfall
Cha Ong waterfall is in the forest in Cha Ong village, O'Chum commune, about 2 kilometers west of Ban Loung provincial town. It was given its name by the Kreung hill tribe living nearby.The waterfall gets its water from Phnom Eysei Patamak or Phnom Svay near Ban Loung provincial town. From its upper level, the water flows from ...
Ka Chanh waterfall
Ratanakiri (Khmer: រតនគិរី[2] IPA: [ˌreə̯̆ ta ˈna ki ˈriː]) is a province (khaet) of Cambodia located in the remote northeast. It borders the provinces of Mondulkiri to the south and Stung Treng to the west and the countries of Laos and Vietnam to the north and east, respectively. The province extends from ...
Ka Tieng Waterfall
We went to see 3 waterfalls in total, visiting Ka Tieng, Kinchaan and Chaa Ong. To get to Ka Tieng. we had to go through a small river with the bike, which was pretty nerve racking, but worth the effort. On to Kinchaan, where we met some local guys keen to show off their cliff jumping skills, although i was happy to remain dry ...
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