It's a long journey by land, but that old adage about the journey holds true for those that make the effort to reach Cambodia's most remote outpost. Sandwiched between the Vietnamese and Laos border, Ratanakiri is a wilderness of jungle and wide rivers, dotted occasionally by villages where, it seems, traditions are unadulterated by modernity.
Travelling east from Phnom Penh up the Mekong is an adventure in itself. The strange torpedo like motor boats that plough the waters seem out of place in this spectacular country, but they do the job nonetheless.
It is necessary to spend a night in Stung Treng before reaching
Ratanakiri. When I was in there, there was little to do in this town, but the guesthouse was suitable and there was a cafe that served decent fayre.
Moreover following the journey thus far it was a welcome respite, and gave me time to digest the richness of all I had passed that day. North from here is the Laos crossing, famous for its proximity to the many islands within the Mekong and the river dolphins you struggle to glimpse - but that was for another time.
The final leg of the journey was all I could've hoped for; delays,
breakdowns, burst tyres and appalling discomfort, but that is what you want when you travel to Ratanakiri and anything less really would have been rather disappointing.
Arriving in the province is an achievement insomuch as you feel you have arrived somewhere new and untapped. The slack roads and buildings look different to other places in the country; even the people have a certain unfazed look on their faces depicting, perhaps, their Vietnamese neighbours.
Spending a couple of weeks in this part of Cambodia is healing for those who love travel and love what travel represents. For $50 I went with a guide into the jungle to live out my explorer fantasy. Sleeping in hammocks, removing leaches and trekking through dense vegetation with the slight hope of seeing some beast, or happening upon a new Angkor type ruin is a tad hopeful. Still, you feel here anything is possible, and are honoured to tread such virgin land.
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