Ratanakiri- Cambodia: Ratanakiri is a province in Northeastern Cambodia. The word "Ratanakiri" is a derivative of two Cambodian words, combined to mean "place of gems and mountains." It’s capital, Banlung, is located in the central highlands of the province, approximately 365 miles (586 kilometers) from Phnom Penh. Lomphat, a small town in the southern plains, is the former capital of Ratanakiri. The province is a popular destination for thousands of tourist every year. Ecotourism abounds, due to lush wildlife and remote tribal villages. Most of the inhabitants of Ratanakiri are indigenous minorities. Ethnic Cambodians make up only 10-20% of the total population.
The two main draws that bring tourists to Ratakiri are its indigenous people groups and its wildlife. The province is home to five main ethnic minority groups, the Tampuan, Krung, Jarai, Kachok, and Brao/Kavet. Their tribal lifestyle and village culture are a popular attraction to tourists from Europe and the United States.
Aerial view of Yak Loum Lake
Yak Loum lake is another popular tourist destination in Ratakiri. Located approximately 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from the town center, the beautiful lake is the caldera of a large volcanic crater. Due to the lake’s tremendous depth (157 feet/48 meters), its water is exceptionally clean and clear. The lake is almost perfectly round and measures .45 of a mile (.75 kilometer) in diameter. Large trees and rich, lush rainforest, the home of many exotic birds and parrots, surround the lake.
Besides the capital of Banlung, Ratankiri has two other major towns.
Vuen sai, to the north, is located on the Se San river. Population is less than 1000. During the dry season, Veun Sai boasts a long, white sanded beach along the river, which proves to be an important tourist attraction. Most of the population of Veun Sai is either Krung, Lao, or Chinese. The beautiful, ethnic Chinese portion of the town is located on the North side of the river.
Lomphat, the former capital of Ratanakiri, is located to the South, on the Se Kong river. It is small, numbering less than 800 people.