Ratanakiri

Banlung City is the provincial capital of Ratanakiri Province in Cambodia's mountainous north-eastern corner. Heavily jungled and home to 12 different “Khmer Loeu” ethnic minority groups, Ratanakiri Province offers a real edge-of-the-world feel. Most visitors to the Ratanakiri base themselves in Banlung City, from there they make excursions/treks to Khmer Loeu villages and jungle areas, waterfalls, gem mines, and Ratanakiri's famous Yeak Laom volcanic lake. The city of Banlung is fairly small but offers some interesting shops and a few decent hotels.

Places of interest

EISEI PATAMAK HILL
Wat Rahtanharahm (“Wat Aran”) sits at the base of Eisey Patamak Hill about 1km east of town. Follow the road past the wat and up the mountain. Just below the crest is a large reclining Buddha who sits amongst a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside.

PHSAR BANLUNG
First thing in the morning, many Khmer Loeu people come to the Phsar Banlung wearing traditional "back strapped" baskets laden with vegetable, fruits and forest products tradable at the market. It may be an interesting and photogenic scene for visits before 10:00AM prior to most people’s pack up and departure.

WATERFALLS
There are several local waterfalls best seen during the rainy season when the water volume is at its peak. On the route to the local falls, visitors will pass through rubber plantations and rural countryside.
On most tours of the area are:
Cha Ong which is a 18 metre waterfall in the jungle. The rock behind the fall has been carved out by the water torrent, thus creating a walking area behind the fall.
Ka Chanh which is wide and approximately 7-metre tall fall with a large pool at the base where swimming is a viable option.
Ka Tieng which is a 10 metre fall in a jungle setting.  
Sean Lae Waterfall (“Seven Step Waterfall”) which is approximately 35km south of Ban Lung. This waterfall has been said to be the most beautiful waterfall in Cambodia with its seven steps. It is located near the new camp of gem mining area (chomrom bai srok) where miners dig holes in search for precious stones. A stop over at the mining area may be arranged to observe the local method of gem searching.

VIRACHEY NATIONAL PARK
The largest national park in Cambodia, Virachey National Park, is one of the top priority areas for conservation in Southeast Asia. This national park together with adjacent protected areas in Laos and Vietnam collectively form one of the largest areas of protected forest in Asia. It is located in Ratanakiri and Stung Treng Provinces in North-eastern Cambodia covering an area of 3,325 sq km. This heavily jungled and mountainous area is where many ethnic minority people live, and the area continues to remain partially unexplored.

YEAK LOAM VOLCANIC LAKE
The lake is a 700,000 year old volcanic crater lake in a peaceful jungle setting in the Yeak Laom Commune Protected Area. The lake and the area are considered sacred by many Khmer Loeu people, and are steeped in local myths and legends. There are a couple of docks on the lakeside where swimming and picnicking are encouraged. The lake is 800 metres in diameter and 47 metres deep, and is ringed by a 2.5km hiking trail. The Yeak Loam Cultural and Environmental Centre on the lake trail displays Khmer Loeu handicrafts and fabrics.

LUMKUT VOLCANIC LAKE
It is another volcanic lake defined by its oval shape within the province. It is located in the eastern part of Lomphat District's Seda Commune. Relative to Yaklom Lake, Lumkut Lake is more peaceful and less visited.

ELEPHANT TREKKING/RIDES
3-hour to 1 day elephant treks to local waterfalls, Khmer Loeu villages and Yeak Laom Lake can be arranged as interesting options to explore the local area.

ANDAUNG MEAS
Andong Meas District is growing in popularity due to a combination of minority villages, Jairai cemeteries and accessibility via short river trips. There is a pleasant trail from Andong Meas to a Jarai cemetery on the banks of Tonle Sesan. From here it is possible to return to Andong Meas by river.

GEM MINING IN BORKEO
As you may have predicted from the numerous gem dealers in town, Ratanakiri is a gem mining area. In the Bokeo mines 36km from Banlung, miners work in shallow tunnels extracting zircon, some of which end up cut and displayed in the Banlung shops. Please take a look at the rubber and coffee plantations, and visit the Sean Lae Waterfalls (“Seven Step Waterfall’) on the way.  

VOEUN SAI
Voeun Sai is a district, located on the banks of Tonle Se San. It is a pleasant little community of Chinese, Lao and Kreung villages. Originally, the town was located on the northern banks of the river and was known as Virachey, but nowadays the main settlement is on the southern bank. Away from the main settlement and towards the north side of the river is most interesting. It is comprised of Chinese settlements exceeding more than 100 years old and several Lao and Chunchiet villages nearby.

“HILL TRIBE” PEOPLE AND VILLAGES
Ratanakiri has a population of about 60,000 “Khmer Loeu” people. “Khmer Loeu” is a controversial (not conformably defined) term referring to various minority groups of people from different tribes. The Khmer Loeus are actually 12 different groups of tribal people (including the Tampuan, Kroeung, Kavet, Kachok, Charai, Prouv, Phnoung and Lan) living in the jungle and mountains.  They still practice many of their traditional ways of life including slash and burn agriculture, and animism; and they continue to maintain traditional clothing styles and housing designs. Tours and treks may be tailored to meet guests’ requirements, but most guides suggest visiting more than one tribal village over two to four days to observe the different aspects of tribal life as well as visit with the different people.
Popular excursions include visiting Tumpoun and Charai villages to see their distinctive cemetery totems and long houses, and Kroeung villages to see their traditional farming techniques and unique “boy high houses”.

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