The Northeast of Cambodia
These 2 provinces in the north-east of Cambodia are truly different. Mountainous and forested, with soil characterized by red earth, Ratanakiri is inhabited mainly by animist tribes. We visit their villages and cemeteries in the forest, which house statues of the deceased represented with objects of daily use among which, as modern life demands, handbags and mobile phones. Mondulkiri is even more isolated and it offers some superb natural sites, made up of high hilly plateaus, waterfalls and forests, inhabited by other ethnic minorities. It is also one of the last sanctuaries for elephants, and an ideal place for beautiful walks or trekking.
Day 1: PHNOM PENH – KAMPONG CHAM – KRATIE
You will start The Northeast of Cambodia visit leaving early morning to Kratie (320 km, 6-7hrs of road approximately), through the province of Kampong Cham. Stopping at Skoun market, very famous throughout the country for its culinary speciality: giant earth spiders, found only here and which are eaten either roasted or fried. Arriving early afternoon and booking into a resort on an island where no cars does are allowed, in an absolutely beautiful setting. Rest of the day is free to visit the island and its villages, on foot or by bicycle, or simply relaxing and enjoying the beauty and tranquility of the site.
Dinner at the resort.
2nd Day: KRATIE – RATANAKIRI
A cruise to find the last of the fresh water dolphins: the colony which lives in this area is the largest on the river. Departure towards Ratanakiri province. (205 km, 5-6hrs approximately). Taking a road heading north along the Mekong valley, which we eventually move off to finally head towards the interior to link up with Banlung, the provincial capital. Registration and ,depending on the time available, an optional trip to Yak Laom lake, a vast expanse of water perfectly circular in form filling a former volcanic crater surrounded by a beautiful forest, ideal for a refreshing swim at the end of the day.
Dinner at the resort
3rd day: RATANAKIRI
Heading north-west crossing bamboo forests before arriving at the village of Voeune Sai located on the left bank of the Se San river; the view of the Chinese Village on the other side of the river is particularly pretty. This place is also almost a Chinese enclave on Cambodian territory, indeed most of the villagers, who have been here for generations, do not speak Khmer. Upstream of the Se San are located a number of villages belonging to minorities who practice funeral statuary; a visit to one of them, where within are some fine examples of totems. Depending on the season and river conditions, we continue by canoe and outboard (about 1h30) or by taking a 4×4 up a jungle track.
4th Day: RATANAKIRI
Departure in a north-easterly direction, towards the Vietnamese border, and a visit to the Bokeo mines. The route goes along the only paved road in the surrounding area built with help from the Vietnamese. The mine site is like a shanty town inhabited by a few hundred people lost in the middle of nowhere. The rush for zircon has transformed the place into a huge Gruyere cheese pierced with hundreds of wells of 60 cm diameter and between twelve to twenty meters deep. The miners go down these wells without any protection, with walls that are not shored up, lighting their way only by candlelight and accidents are frequent. Returning to Banlung and continuing towards the district of Taveng. Stopping on the way to see a cashew nut plantation as well as one of the many waterfalls in the region. Then crossing over a curious outcrop of volcanic rock at Veyrum Plâng: A perfectly circular clearing open in the forest and made of blocks of lava, a few steps away there’s situated a small waterfall ( only during the rainy season) surrounded by tiger caves. Then a visit to a large village called Kroeung where one can still see batchelor homes, particularly interesting. On completion of their duties and when the young men become heads of their own families, these homes are then destroyed before being rebuilt by a younger generation in the following season. A further stop to a village where women grow their own cotton and weave very beautiful fabrics with traditional designs, before returning to the lodge during the afternoon.
5th Day: RATANAKIRI – MONDULKIRI
Taking the road to Sen Monorom, main city of Mondulkiri province, the most isolated and least densely populated place in the country (550 km, 8-9h approximately). The countryside is superb and presents a unique environment in Cambodia with its high hilly plateaus, forests and waterfalls and its animals that are threatened with extinction, such as the wild elephant, the Malaysian bear or the many varieties of birds. Visits are done along the way, arriving in the afternoon and checking into the hotel.
Lunch at a restaurant on the road.
6th Day: MONDULKIRI
Day trip by 4×4 along the road tracks of Mondulkiri. First, a visit to the Bousra waterfalls, 35 km from Sen Monorom, the most famous and spectacular in Cambodia. You can do the tour around them by borrowing some wooden ladders, or just contemplate them from the rest area, where a few small stalls offer food and local products. Not far from here, a visit to a hamlet carrying the same name, inhabited by the Phnong, the most interesting of ethnic minorities in the region. We recognize their villages by the large earthen jars that are aligned in front of their homes and whose number indicates how wealthy the family is. There’s a Catholic mission here, with its small church. Continuing on to a second village where the Phnong are mixed with the Stieng tribe, another minority in the province, and then onto other less important waterfalls. Depending on the season, swimming is possible. Returning to Sen Monorom at days end.
Picnic lunch or at a local restaurant.
7th Day: MONDULKIRI
Excursion on the back of an elephant through the forest and along a river up to a Phnong village. The journey takes about 1h30 and where in a few places you are obliged to walk . The elephants cannot be used for more than 3hrs per day so on arrival they are therefore left on their own to rest and feed. During this time a breakfast is provided in the village. You can however follow them to see them bathing in the river, while the mahouts will introduce you to how they guide them. In the afternoon returning to Sen Monorom by elephant, then climbing to the top of Doh Kromom hill to view a beautiful sunset over the city and the surrounding countryside.
Lunch in the village.
8th Day: MONDULKIRI – PHNOM PENH
Return to Phnom Penh (520 km, 8-9h approximately). Arrival in the afternoon.