advertisement

Cambodia's remote northeast is a mixture of wild and unforgiving jungle, rolling cultivated hills, and red, red earth. It is home to a mosaic of indigenous peoples collectively dubbed the Khmer Loeu ("high Khmer"), a reference to the area's geography, not their historical or social status. They have their own culture, history, and languages and have historically been far removed from the lowland Khmer. The physical and environmental character of the province is made up of an impressive range of high land with undulating hills and mountains, a level plateau, watershed lowlands, crater lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. Forest cover varies from area to area, from the dense impenetrable forest in the northern reaches, which are still rich in wildlife, to the drier and sparser forest, found in the southwest. Similarly, the soil types present range from rich volcanic soil to the sandy soil found near rivers. Rapacious logging is taking a heavy toll here. Ratanakiri has also long been an area of profitable gem mining some although the whole district is on the edge of being totally mined out.

It was to this region that Pol Pot and his henchmen fled in the '60s when Sihanouk decided to crack down on those he dubbed with contempt the Khmer Rouge. In many ways these men on the run found a willing and loyal audience among the tribal peoples of this remote region. They had often been discriminated against and bonded into slavery.

These days this region is emerging as a very popular eco-tourism destination and facilities, while still basic, are improving with each passing year.

Banlung

Banlung is the capital of Ratanakiri Province and is the base from which you can explore the surrounding countryside with waterfalls, lakes, and villages.