Cambodia’s glorious ruins, its stunning temples, and bustling nightlife have long been luring visitors from different parts of the world. But there’s still so much the country has to offer that remains hidden from the eyes of a majority of tourists, especially in the East of the country, popular for its wilderness and natural beauty. Here’s what you can discover in the lesser-known eastern Cambodia:
Surrounded by thick and lush jungles, the small Ratanakiri Province to the northeast of Cambodia shares a border with Laos and Vietnam. The province remains known for its gem-mining and its rubber, cashew and cassava plantations. Most of the tourists visiting Ratanakiri pick the town of Banlung as their base for hiking and trekking to nearby hills and countryside. Some of the popular attractions here include Lake Yeak Laom, Kachanh Waterfall, Virachey National Park as well as Chaa Ong waterfall. Elephant trekking is also widely popular in this region.
If you really want to ditch the crowds, pick Mondulkiri, Cambodia’s largest yet most sparsely populated province. The region boasts a mountainous terrain as well as impenetrable forests where animal species such as elephants, Asian dogs, bears, leopards and green peafowl live. Senmonorom, the capital and the only major town in the province, is the base for hikes and day trips to nearby areas. The popular attractions here include 3000-sq-km Seima Protected Forest, Bou Sraa Waterfall, Wat Phnom Doh Kromom as well as Romanear Waterfall. When in Mondulkiri, don’t forget spending a day with elephants at the popular Elephant Valley Project.
The biggest city in the Eastern Cambodia, Kompong Cham was once the cosmopolitan centre of the whole country. Today, Kompong Cham may not have the hustle and bustle of the 1940s but it has evolved into a charming town marked by a bustling riverfront lined by cafes, the tree-lined avenues as well as splendid colonial architecture. Time moves slowly here and you will have ample of it for discovering the famous ruins of Wat Nokor as well as the hilltop temple of Phnom Hann Chey. The pre-Angkorian site of Banteay Prei Nokor is breathtaking and can be covered on a day trip. If you fancy it, you can also take boat trips to nearby villages and enjoy languid walks discovering local culture and ways of life.
Often just a stop for tourists heading to Laos, Ratnakiri and Siem Reap, Stung Trenq is oozing with potential as a tourist destination, and those who are able to see this benefit from its umpteen tourist offerings. These include watching sunset on the Mekong River, swimming with the fresh water dolphins, sea kayaking and paddling down the Mekong River and discovering a number of stunning Buddhist pagodas.
The major draw of Kratie, lying 70 kilometres north of Kompong Cham, are the rare Irrawaddy dolphins that inhabit the local river but Kratie has more for visitors who come with time and curiosity. There’s a meditation centre called Phnom Sambok that can be visited for a spiritual encounter. Architecture lovers can sample the remnants of the French colonial architecture at the Governor’s House. Thrill seekers can take a kayaking trip along the Mekong Discovery Trail.