This tour takes you along the mighty Mekong River for an in-depth exploration of Ratanakiri province. Many beautiful sites and activities are available to us all along the route. Temple explorations, boating excursions, elephant riding, dolphin spotting... and so much more.
• Kompong Cham, its sacred hills and sandstone temple• Kratie, a small town on the side of the Mekong river• Scenic Banlung and Ratanakiri provinces
• Sightings of the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins• Enjoy a dip in the refreshing waters of the beautiful crater lake of Yeak Loam• An unforgettable, leisurely elephant ride through the rubber plantations of Ratanakiri
[Day 1] Phnom Penh – KratieMeals: N/A | Accommodation: hotel
We leave Phnom Penh and travel northeast to the bustling provincial city of Kompong Cham. En route, we'll make a quick stop at Skuon, affectionately known as 'Spiderville', where it is possible to sample the local delicacy of deep fried tarantula. Well worth a photo, if not a taste test... We arrive in Kompong Cham mid-morning and visit the sacred hills and the Hindu temples of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei (Man and Woman hills). Later we'll visit the 'fusion' temple of Wat Nokor, an 11th century sandstone temple with a colorful modern wat within its central courtyard. This temple offers uniquely intricate carvings and its colorful combination of the Hindu past and the Buddhist present is almost unheard of elsewhere in Cambodia.
After enjoying a local lunch in Kompong Cham we continue northeast to Kratie, a sleepy Mekong port and gateway to the habitats of the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphins that inhabit the upper reaches of the Cambodian Mekong. We check into our hotel and have some free time to soak up the atmosphere of this charming town, with its well-preserved colonial-era architecture. We spend the night in a comfortable local hotel.
[Day 2] Kratie – Ban LungMeals: N/A | Accommodation: hotel
After breakfast in Kratie, we travel to Kampi, one of the many deep pools where the rare river dolphins gather to feed. We board a local boat and cruise out into the mighty Mekong for a chance encounter with these gentle creatures. Viewing is commonplace, although it is easier to see the dolphins in the shallower waters of the dry season than in the swollen depths of the wet season. After enjoying an hour or more of dolphin viewing, we then continue north on the new National Highway 7 towards Stung Treng. We stop for a local lunch along the way before veering east towards the red earth region of Ratanakiri. Our route crosses the Srepok River, depicted in the seminal film Apocalypse Now, where Martin Sheen travels upriver into Cambodia in search of the renegade Colonel Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando. Imagine the mysteries and difficulties of the past while marveling at the brightness of the landscape and its people in the present day.
We arrive in Banlung in time to enjoy a dip the refreshing waters of the beautiful crater lake of Yeak Loam, set amid a pocket of lush jungle. The crystal clear water is cool and refreshing after the short walk and there may be local children also enjoying a swim. We then return to Banlung to overnight in a comfortable local hotel.
[Day 3] Full Day Tour Ban LungMeals: N/A | Accommodation: hotel
We journey by road to the small town of Voen Sai on the banks of the San River, passing through some pristine stretches of forest along the way. We take a local boat across the river to a Lao village on the other side, where we then follow the riverbank to a unique Chinese village more than one hundred years old. Chinese is the language of choice among residents and in places it strongly resembles a slice of rural China. From here we continue on foot to another Lao village with its traditional wooden pagoda.
We then take a boat upriver to the Tompuon ethnic village of Kachon, passing some beautiful sections of river along the way. Kachon is home to a traditional Tompuon burial ground complete with carved effigies of the deceased. Groups of family members are buried side by side and elaborate ceremonies are held after a period of mourning. After paying our respects and learning more about this element of Khmer culture, we return to Banlung by road.
In the afternoon, we travel by road to a small Kreung village that continues to breed and train working elephants. Laudable forest conservation efforts in southeast Asia can also bring unemployment for elephants and their owners. Ecotourism thus offers a sustainable way to continue to provide income for the caretakers of these magnificent animals. We saddle up for an unforgettable experience and take a leisurely ride through the rubber plantations of Ratanakiri. You'll never forget the experience of sharing the time with these exceptionally intelligent and powerful creatures. We follow the course of a small river which our elephants wade through with ease before descending to the base of the Kaa Tien Waterfall. This is a superb crescent-shaped waterfall set in the jungle, and it is possible to clamber behind the falls and to swim in the huge splash pool below. Some of the jungle vines hanging down from the gorge are strong enough for a swing and this is a great way to relax. We walk back to the Kreung village and return to Banlung by vehicle after an incredible day of tropical experiences and memories for a well earned rest.
[Day 4] Gem Mines and The Seven Step WaterfallMeals: N/A | Accommodation: hotel
Today we travel to a remote area of Ratanakiri province to see traditional gem mining. 'Ratanak' means precious stones, 'kiri' means hills, and so the very name of this region denotes its fame for the semi-precious stones found here. Small scale, do-it-yourself mining is an important industry in the province, and we'll see and learn about the old-fashioned mining techniques and may have a chance to see some uncut stones. We then continue to the seven-step waterfall of Sean Lay, one of the most beautiful in the province. We'll enjoy a picnic here and allow plenty of time to enjoy a swim or to read a book in the shade before we return to Banlung.
[Day 5] Ban Lung - Phnom PenhMeals: N/A | Accommodation: hotel
After breakfast, transfer by car from Ratanakiri to Phnom Penh. The journey takes 10-11 hours. Evening arrival back to Phnom Penh for our overnight in the hotel.
[Day 6] Phnom Penh DepartureMeals: N/A | Accommodation: N/A
After breakfast, you'll say farewell to a Cambodia you've unexpectedly learned to love, and will head to the airport to catch your flight home.
PRICE PER PERSON
• Accommodation• Drinking water during sightseeing• Travel in an appropriate air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced driver• The services of an experienced English-speaking guide• All entrance fees
• International flight tickets and airport tax, currently $25 per person• Cambodia entrance visa, currently $20 per person• Meals• Beverages, gratuities and personal expenses.• Camera fees (if any)• Personal expenses• Surcharge in peak season (Christmas & New Year)• Insurance
Mid-range• Kratie: Oudom Sambath hotel (Standard room)• Ban Lung: Terres Rouges hotel (Standard room)• Phnom Penh: Anise hotel (Superior room)
Superior• Kratie: Oudom Sambath hotel (Standard room)• Ban Lung: Terres Rouges hotel (Standard room)• Phnom Penh: FCC building (Standard room) or Imperial Garden hotel (standard room) or Juliana hotel (Superior room)
Deluxe• Kratie: Oudom Sambath hotel (Standard room)• Ban Lung: Terres Rouges hotel (Standard room)• Phnom Penh: Raffle Grand Le Royal hotel (State room)
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