Offline in Northeastern Cambodia
Many people see our job as travel experts as a walk in the park. And sometimes it is… On a day like this, we are happy to be travel experts! We set out to explore Northeastern Cambodia.
We prepare our belongings for a week-long trip through the northeast of Cambodia to assess the new infrastructure. The construction of new hotels has tremendously improved the facilities for tourists. They offer higher standards now. At least that is what we are being told. It is time to have a look and find out ourselves!
It is amazing at times how fast things develop in a place like Cambodia. Plantations have popped up everywhere on the way. The road is smooth, which for Cambodia is quite unique. Those who visited Cambodia over five years ago can still remember the infamous “dancing roads”. This now belongs to the past. Comfortable travel has made its debut in Northeastern Cambodia.
One thing has not changed though… connectivity with a mobile network remains poor. But on a trip like this, nobody really mind to be offline for a bit of time.
Ratanakiri is the most northeastern province of the four provinces of Cambodia that make up of the “Northeast”. Next to Ratanakiri we have Mondulkiri, Kratie and Stung Treng. On this trip, our focus is Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri. Two provinces with tremendous potential for adventure and ecotourism.
Banlung, the capital of Ratanakiri immediately captivated. The dusty red-soiled town we all knew it was years ago is gone. Properly paved main roads have replaced the bumpy red soil paths. Roundabouts and nice barriers with plants and trees have been constructed. The town even has a skybar these days. Light decorations give the town a fancy look in the evening but unlike Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, the town is quiet after 9PM. There is definitely a positive vibe around town and new hotels have upped the standards. Guides, restaurants and service levels throughout have improved as local investors from the bigger towns around the country found their way into Banlung.
Activities in Ratanakiri
The attractions around Banlung have not changed. Waterfalls still dot the surroundings of the town. Accessibility has also improved here, meaning more to explore for us! Minority villages have opened up but also see development coming through. Airavata Elephant Camp is a new addition in Ratanakiri. The project allows elephants to roam free. Since the elephants are all older and cannot be used anymore for labor, they are offered a peaceful retirement. Visitors can observe the elephants in the jungle and support the project’s activities by booking hiking tours through the jungle while observing the elephants. As we walk with these gentle giants through the forest, we understand that the need for conservation. Preservation and conservation is the key for this province to sustain.
We ride our way down to Mondulkiri over a new road. In previous years the 200km from Banlung to Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri’s capital, took two days. A few years ago this trip was only undertaken by motorbikes. Now it is an easy two hour drive by car. Talking about development!
The green hills of Mondulkiri did not change fortunately. The town of Sen Monorom not much either. The Mayura Hill Resort sets the quality tone these days. A tiny strip of new restaurants serve western and local food to foreigners and that is basically it. It is a good sign that the provincial character of the town is being kept in place.
Activities in Mondulkiri
The Elephant Valley Project is the province’s biggest attraction. We also joined them for a hike through the forest and observed the elephants in their natural habitat. With great explanations of the guide and a beautiful backdrop this certainly classified as a top-rated experience! The lunch served afterwards in the cozy living room was cooked by the local women of the village. A true delight if you ask us.
Cruising further we hit Dakdam Village. A minority village where Muslim, Christians and Animists all live next to each other. It is a perfect example of we all wish life would be like if we would just respect each other’s beliefs. Women are weaving traditional scarves. As one of them is weaving and talking about the process, we decide to buy the one she is weaving. The colors, the pattern and her story captivate us. It is all worth much more than the USD 6.- she is asking for it.
Next to one of Cambodia’s largest waterfalls, Bousra, which is far more accessible these days, other waterfalls remain hidden. Probably our favorite activity was the mountainbike ride from Dakdam Village to the Leng Khan and Leng Aong waterfalls. Seldom have we seen such amazing views along the way.
Altogether, it was well worth the 1600km drive. The long days of “work” and the days of trekking, boating and cycling paid off well. Lolei Travel has an amazing updated product in the Northeast of Cambodia. Email us now and find out what we can offer you in the Northeast of Cambodia.