29 Jan

Traveling Ratanakiri Cambodia

Traveling Ratankiri Cambodia was amazing! As many of you know, I was recently in Cambodia teaching English, studying the Khmer language, working with NGOs, and traveling around the beautiful country.

We made a trip to Ratankiri, a small province (even for Cambodian standards) of less than 100,000 inhabitants, felt so different from Siem Reap. The population and commerce in Siem Reap is heavily concentrated in a relatively small area whereas Ratanakiri is spread out with far less people.

Prior to traveling Ratanakiri Cambodia, we were privy to a presentation by a well spoken, highly intelligent professor named Krishna. Krishna’s presentation about Ratanakiri and the Jurai people was incredibly interesting! It was amazing to me that she lived with the Jurai people for so many years.  She lived the same way they did and learned from them which is admirable!

I was sad to learn that the local village is being destroyed because of outsiders taking their land and using it for commercial use, for rubber trees, etc. In 1997, 80% of Ratanakiri was covered by forest/jungle. This number is swiftly decreasing. Krishna explained that the Khmer Lou village people she knew may have already been forced to flee the area. Consider this: The Khmer Lou native villagers have been in this area for 1,000 years. It’s a sad reality that in Cambodia and other areas of the world (tribes in South America, Native Americans in U.S., and more), native traditions that have been practiced for so many years (handed down from generation to generation) are now being destroyed in the name of “progress.”

This is why the work of anthropologists is so important. It’s also crucial that our generation learns about cultural traditions from our parents & grandparents. This is the best way to ensure that traditions are remembered and passed on.

Where is Ratanakiri Cambodia? What’s the terrain like?

Located in the remote northeast corner of Cambodia, near Vietnam, Ratankiri is well known as an exceptionally beautiful area of Southeast Asia. Ripe with mountains, lakes, tropical jungle and waterfalls, travelers can simply enjoy the wonders of nature.  The vast array of waterfalls was amazing.

The final waterfall that Maya and I visited was my favorite.  Laying on the flat rocks and gazing upwards toward the water falling was mesmerizing.  I could trace with my eyes a tiny droplet fall from the top all the way down.  I did my best to soak in the image in my mind, but something tells me I will need to go back one day to remember 🙂

Traveling Ratanakiri Cambodia

Boat Ride to Villages in Ratanakiri

The boat ride to visit the villages was a spectacular highlight of traveling Ratanakiri.  It felt nice to be on the water in such solitude, away from the honking and trucks on the streets in Siem Reap.  I enjoyed trekking through the villages to see the cemeteries.

Cemeteries in Ratanakiri

I am curious as to how they decide on what images to paint on the wood grave placements and how they decide for each person.  Is it spur of the moment?  Or does the family ask what images they’d like to be painted?  I saw many different designs, images of people, images of animals, and images of events being partaken (drinking rice wine, hunting, etc.)  Additionally, I’m interested in the color selection and how they acquire the different paints.  What do they use to make the paint?  It is all so complex, yet very simple at the same time (brush strokes, structure, and positioning).

Visting Ratanakiri: Where to Stay

I was surprised that there were many other tourists at Tree Top Guesthouse, where our group stayed.  I didn’t think many tourists would come to or even know about Ratanakiri — although the scenery is magnificent which gives reason as to why many others would come!

Summary of Ratanakiri Trip

Ratanakiri was a great trip and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing more of Cambodia.  It is also interesting to note that the one time I felt “threatened” here in Cambodia was not from a Khmer person, but instead a foreigner.  Let’s hope there won’t be any more bizarre events like that one!  — although they do make for good stories to laugh at afterwards 🙂

Ratanakiri is a terrific place for travelers who are seeking to get off the beaten path and find a culturally rich “hidden gem” of Southeast Asia. If you appreciate underdeveloped cultural destinations, Ratanakiri is for you. But be sure to respect the local culture and while you’re there, see if there’s anything you can do to help the Khmer Lou people 🙂



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