Ratanakiri : Places To Go In Cambodia
Ratanakiri Province is located in Cambodia's mountainous northeastern corner.
Jungle, wildlife, stunning scenery and 12 different 'Khmer Loeu' ethnic minority groups ('Khmer Loeu' refers to all the various minority peoples of the different tribes) make this Cambodias “eco-tourism” capitol. Ratanakiri province has a real under developed “Indiana Jones” feel to it.
Visitors to Ratanakiri normally stay in Banlung the provincial capitol from where trips/treks to Khmer Loeu villages, jungle areas, waterfalls, gem mines, and Ratanakiri's famous Yeak Laom volcanic lake depart from.
Banlung offers some interesting shopping and a few hotels and guesthouses. Most people elsewhere in Cambodia don’t use the name Banlung and just refer to it as Ratanakiri.
Getting to Banlung
President Airlines has flights to Banlung three times per week $105 rtn. Airport departure tax is $6 in Phnom Penh and $4 in Banlung. Moto taxi from Banlung Airport to a hotel is about 1000 - 1500 riel for the short ride.
Overland from Phnom Penh
The first part of the trip to Kratie is now quite easy as new road goes all the way to Kratie. Ho Wah Genting do a bus everyday from Central Market departing at 7.30 am $4.50 one way. Share taxi about $4, five hour journey.
Then take a ferry from Kratie to Stung Treng (5 hours, $7) or a share taxi but the road is still bad 4-5hours $6.
Once in Stung Treng take a shared taxi or truck from Stung Treng to Banlung (25,000 riel, 4 hours in the dry season. 6-8 hours in the wet season.
It is possible to get taxi’s direct to and from Phnom Penh at around $18-$22 a seat but this is a journey that is 12-14 hours or longer depending on the road conditions!
Motorcycle taxi (motodup), rental motorcycle and bicycle are the main ways of getting around town and the surrounding area. Motodups are 500 - 1500 riel almost anywhere in town and $7-$10 for the whole day (in the local surrounding area.) English speaking drivers that also act as guides may charge more.
For motorcycle or bicycle rental, it is easiest to ask at your guesthouse or hotel. 100cc motorcycles are $5/day. A few 250cc bikes are for rent in town and your hotel can probably find one for you. Bicycle rental is $1/day. Rental prices of trucks and 4WDs are around $30-$40/day.
Banks and Money
There are no banks or ATMs. No place in town accepts credit cards, though most of the hotels exchange currency and accept traveler's checks. Moneychangers are located on the road in from of Phsar Banlung and change dollars, riel and Vietnamese dong.
Internet and Telephones
Internet is slow and expensive but it is available and does work well enough for e-mail and limited surfing. There is an Internet shop opposite Phsar Banlung, and the Tribal Hotel also offers Internet access. $5/hour.
International calls run from $1.30 - $1.70 per minute. Buy an 'Access card' for $5, $10, or $20 at the phone shop near the market. Use the card to make international calls either their at the phone shop or from the landline phone at most hotels.
What to Buy
Semi-precious gems and Khmer Loeu handicrafts and artifacts are Banlung's main souvenir offerings. The handicrafts are uniquely authentic - as likely made for use by local people as for the souvenir market - 'back-strap baskets', fabrics, gourd vessels, gongs and more. There is one souvenir shop in town located in the first row of shops in front of Phsar Banlung. The gem and drink shops on the corner next to the central monument have a few souvenirs, especially gourd vessels and baskets. Terres Rouges Lodge has a boutique offering handicrafts and Cambodian silks.
Semi-precious gems mined in Ratanakiri (primarily amethyst, zircon, peridot and obsidian), are cut and polished in Banlung and sold as unset gems. Gem cutting/retail shops dot the main road and market area, and there is a cluster of shops near the central monument. Look for the distinctive glass display cases lined with bare yellow light bulbs. Knowing something about gems before you buy is a distinct advantage.
Markets and Shopping
The main market, Phsar Banlung, is a relatively unextraordinary traditional market offering the usual range of items for local consumption. There is one souvenir shop in front of the market, and food stalls set up in front of the market in the evening. . For most travelers' needs (soft drinks, water, beer, liquor, toiletries, snacks, souvenirs, etc.), the small drink shops next to the monument in the center of town carry most everything.
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