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The Rural East

Back when the now-improved roads were little more than dirt tracks, it was easier to get from Mondulkiri to Ratanakiri via Vietnam! These days, Cambodia's rural northeast is a bit less wild. Along with Kratie, on the banks of the Mekong, these provinces promise an unabridged and uncommercial experience of rural life. The region’s poverty can be severe, but ecotourism is helping put the area’s fortunes on the up. The beautiful Irrawaddy dolphins do exist, though sightings are rare. However, if it’s elephants you’re longing to see, in their untouched natural environment, visit Mondulkiri's outstanding animal rescue centre.

Three things to do in the rural north east

Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...

Elephant rescue centre

Every animal sanctuary in Asia that we visit is carefully chosen, regularly inspected, and has the welfare of animals at the fore. The Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri is one such sanctuary that has its conservation ethics spot on. This is the only elephant sanctuary in Cambodia, and despite looking after only a handful of elephants (all rescued from captivity), it's also the largest on the continent. There are over 3,500 acres of forests, grasslands, bamboo groves and rivers, where the elephants can live and behave naturally in a wonderfully wild environment.

elephant in mondulkiri


The potential for walking to waterfalls, including two-tiered Bou Sraa - at their fullest after the rains - is outstanding, and donning hiking boots in Mondulkiri is a must. If you prefer to see it all from above, the lookout point on Phnom Bai Chow provides perfect panoramas across the undulating Sea Forest. Despite the remote nature of the region, it's still inhabited, and a visit to a traditional Banong village with one of our Cambodian friends is always an unforgettable experience. Although this is remote with a capital ‘R’, and nigh on impossible to reach during the May-October rainy season, it's well worth the endeavour.

mondulkiri elephants


Anyone looking to get off the beaten track will relish the prospect of Ratanakiri, and every visit supports the communities living within the Kroung tribal villages. Extreme poverty is a real issue here, and it's highly humbling to be welcomed into a rural village, such as Kachon. You’ll feel truly welcomed, and your presence allows you insight into the region's distinctive cultural customs – such as the sobering local tradition of keeping your own coffin under your house. Getting out into the countryside, especially around Banlung, provides opportunities to cool off in the spray of waterfalls and take a dip in Boeng Yeak Loam crater lake, also known as Cambodia's largest natural swimming pool.


You may like this journey…

Monk walking

Cambodia Encompassed

Discover the true breadth of Cambodian culture by exploring the Angkor Temples, bustling Phnom Penh before heading to the Cardamon Mountains and rounding up with a few days on Cambodia’s islands.

Price from: £2,590 US$2,990
Ideal length 13 days
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