Banlung

Banlung

Gateway to Virachey

One of Cambodia’s loveliest provinces is also one of the furthest away from anywhere else. But Ratanakiri is truly worth the effort, and is now easier to get to than ever before.

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Tucked away into the northeast corner of Cambodia, on the borders with Vietnam and Laos, Ratanakiri is home to few people, and some vast — for now — forests, glorious waterways, waterfalls, lakes and grass plains, all of which can be explored from the provincial capital, Banlung. The once epic journey from Phnom Penh can now be done in as little as seven hours, making it no further away, temporally, than Siem Reap.

Hey pretty pretty. : Nicky Sullivan.
Hey pretty pretty. Photo: Nicky Sullivan

As with Mondulkiri to the south, loggers (legal and illegal) have well and truly had their way with Ratanakiri. While some areas have been protected to some extent — notably Yak Lom crater lake and Virachey National Park — the scars of the over-exploitation of lumber can be seen across the province and while driving across the windy, red clay roads, fields of charred tree stumps are visible. And even Virachey is not immune. We have seen recently taken aerial photographs that show huge sections of the protected forest that have simply disappeared.

Most travellers who make the effort to reach here tend to stay at least three nights, exploring the waterfalls, minority villages and perhaps doing an overnight (or longer) trip into the national park. Bear in mind that tourism is still a developing business here and that things may not always turn out quite as you expect. The makeshift feel to trips around the province add to its ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 800 words.)

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