Cambodia is a country rich in culture, history, and natural beauty. But beyond the famous temples of Angkor and the bustling capital of Phnom Penh, there are two provinces that offer a different and adventurous experience: Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri. These provinces are located in the northeast of Cambodia, bordering Vietnam and Laos. They are home to diverse ethnic groups, stunning landscapes, and abundant wildlife. In this blogpost, I will share with you some of the best places to visit and activities to do in Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri, as well as some tips on where to stay and eat.
Mondulkiri: The Land of Mountains
Mondulkiri is Cambodia’s largest and most sparsely populated province, with an area of 14,288 km2 and a population of about 92,000 people¹. It is known for its hilly terrain, dense forests, and cool climate. The majority of the inhabitants are Bunong people, who have their own language, culture, and traditions. They practice subsistence farming and animal husbandry, and have a strong connection with nature.
What to see and do in Mondulkiri
- Visit Yeak Laom Volcanic Lake: This is one of the most popular attractions in Mondulkiri. It is a beautiful crater lake surrounded by lush forest. The water is clear and refreshing, and you can swim, kayak, or relax on the shore. There is also a cultural center where you can learn more about the Bunong people and their way of life².
- Experience elephant conservation at Airavata Elephant Foundation: This is a non-profit organization that rescues and rehabilitates domesticated elephants that have been abused or exploited by logging or tourism industries. You can join their elephant tours, where you can interact with the gentle giants, feed them, bathe them, and ride them in the forest. You can also learn about their history, behavior, and health care³.
- Explore the waterfalls: Mondulkiri has several waterfalls that are worth visiting. Some of the most impressive ones are Bou Sraa Waterfall, which has a double drop and a zipline over it?; Romanear Waterfall, which has a low but wide cascade and some convenient swimming holes?; and Dak Dam Waterfall, which is hidden in the jungle and requires a guide to find?.
- Experience Bunong culture at a homestay: If you want to immerse yourself in the local culture, you can stay at a homestay with a Bunong family. You can learn about their daily life, their customs, their beliefs, and their cuisine. You can also join them in their activities such as farming, fishing, weaving, or hunting.
Where to stay and eat in Mondulkiri
- Mayura Hill Resort: This is a luxury resort that offers spacious and comfortable rooms with modern amenities. It has a swimming pool, a spa, a restaurant, and a bar. It also organizes tours and activities for guests?.
- Nature Lodge: This is an eco-friendly lodge that offers cozy bungalows with private bathrooms and balconies. It has a garden, a restaurant, and a bar. It also rents bicycles and motorbikes for guests?.
- Tree Lodge: This is a budget-friendly lodge that offers rustic bamboo huts with shared bathrooms. It has a common area, a restaurant, and a bar. It also arranges tours and treks for guests?.
- Sovannkiri Restaurant: This is a popular restaurant that serves delicious Khmer and Western dishes. It has a nice atmosphere and friendly staff[^10^].
- Bamboo Cafe: This is a cozy cafe that serves tasty coffee, tea, smoothies, cakes, and snacks. It has a relaxing vibe and free wifi.
Ratanakiri: The Land of Gems
Ratanakiri is another province in the northeast of Cambodia. It has an area of 10,782 km2 and a population of about 217,000 people. It is known for its gem mines, its diverse wildlife, and its ethnic diversity. The province has nine different ethnic groups, each with their own language, culture, and traditions. They include the Jarai, the Tompuon, the Brau
and the Kreung.
What to see and do in Ratanakiri
- Visit Virachey National Park: This is one of the largest national parks in Cambodia. It covers an area of 3,325 km2 and hosts a variety of ecosystems such as evergreen forest,
It is home to many endangered species such as tigers,
You can join a trekking tour to explore the park and see its flora and fauna.
- Experience the culture and history of the ethnic groups: Ratanakiri has a rich and diverse cultural heritage. You can visit the villages of the different ethnic groups and learn about their lifestyles, their beliefs, their rituals, and their crafts. You can also visit some historical sites such as the Khmer Rouge headquarters, the Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Wat Phnom Doh Kromom temple.
- Enjoy the waterfalls and lakes: Ratanakiri has many waterfalls and lakes that are worth visiting. Some of the most beautiful ones are Ka Chanh Waterfall, which has a 12-meter drop and a natural pool; Ka Tieng Waterfall, which has a 10-meter drop and a suspension bridge; Cha Ong Waterfall, which has a 18-meter drop and a cave; Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall, which has several platforms and a quiet atmosphere; and Yeak Lom Lake, which is another volcanic lake with clear water and a cultural museum.
Where to stay and eat in Ratanakiri
- Terres Rouges Lodge: This is a boutique hotel that offers elegant rooms with wooden furniture and private bathrooms. It has a swimming pool, a spa, a restaurant, and a bar. It also organizes tours and activities for guests.
- Banlung Balcony: This is a guesthouse that offers simple rooms with shared bathrooms and balconies. It has a rooftop terrace, a restaurant, and a bar. It also rents bicycles and motorbikes for guests.
- Yaklom Hill Lodge: This is an eco-lodge that offers traditional bungalows with private bathrooms and verandas. It has a garden, a restaurant, and a bar. It also arranges tours and treks for guests.
- Bamboo House Restaurant: This is a popular restaurant that serves delicious Khmer, Western, and vegetarian dishes. It has a nice view of the lake and friendly staff.
- Ratanak Restaurant: This is a cozy restaurant that serves tasty Khmer, Western, and Indian dishes. It has a relaxing atmosphere and free wifi.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blogpost and found it useful for your travel plans. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. Thank you for your attention! ?
Source: Conversation with Bing, 11/10/2023
(1) Mondulkiri Province – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondulkiri_Province.
(2) Mondulkiri Province travel – Lonely Planet | Cambodia, Asia. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/cambodia/northeastern-cambodia/mondulkiri-province.
(3) Mondulkiri province – Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondulkiri_Province.
(4) Mondulkiri Province – Wikiwand. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Mondulkiri_province.
(5) Mondulkiri Province – Mondulkiri Project. https://www.mondulkiriproject.org/blog/mondulkiri-province/.
(6) Ratanakiri province – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratanakiri_Province.
(7) Things to Do in Ratanakiri Province – Tripadvisor. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g608457-Activities-Ratanakiri_Province.html.
(8) Ratanakiri province – Wikiwand. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Ratanakiri_province.
(9) Ratanakiri Tourism (2023) – Cambodia > Top Places, Travel Guide – Holidify. https://www.holidify.com/places/ratanakiri/.
(10) Ratanakiri province – Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratanakiri_Province.