Ratanakiri mini trip report

Old Apr 1st, 2011, 06:37 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,418
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Ratanakiri mini trip report

A few days ago I returned from a week's journey to Ratanakiri, the province in the farthest reaches of northeastern Cambodia. I've been wanting to go there the entire time I've lived in Cambodia, but I was always too big of a sissy to brave the journey.

I had the forethought to buy two bus tickets so I could have some room to spread out. This turned out to be very wise, since the bus ride that was advertised as being 10 hours long was actually 18 hours long. I kept trying to avoid thinking about where I could have been after 18 hours being bunched up on a Cambodian bus. The bus ran out of gas once, then later stopped at a police roadblock where it was discovered the driver didn't have a driver's license and then it broke down three times. I was very happy that I brought my own food after seeing what was on offer at the roadside stands where we stopped. There was no toilet on board and only one real toilet at any of the places where we stopped along the way, the rest of the time, it was in the bushes. I gotta say, the bus journey is somewhat akin to a tattoo, or childbirth; it's gonna take a while to forget the awfulness of it but in the end it doesn't detract from how great the takeaway experience was. Taking a private car from Phnom Penh or Siem Reap would be an option, but not cheap.

Ratanakiri is by far one of the most amazing destinations I've ever been to. It's the Wild West. It's untouched. Undeveloped. Un-everything. It is the Cambodia I always imagined. After a couple of years here in Siem Reap which is getting more Disney-esque every time I step outside, it was a welcome change.

I am looking forward to returning in the wet season to do some trekking. It's exceedingly beautiful there even in dusty season. I can't imagine how lovely it must be when everything is green.

A highlight was going a couple of hours upriver to see the sacrifice of a water buffalo at a hilltribe funeral ceremony. Another was finding and purchasing some amazing textiles from the local women in some of the villages as well as sampling the locally grown tobacco and coffee, 2 of my favorite things, both superb.

If anyone is interested in getting so far off the track, there isn't one, be in touch and I'll give some tips.

Here are some pics:
http://tinyurl.com/3e4xwpe

Cheers!
Lori
offwego is offline  
Old Apr 1st, 2011, 07:33 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,288
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for sharing your trip with us, Lori. The bus ride was a real ordeal, but it sounds like the destination was worth it. Enjoyed your photos.
Kathie is offline  
Old Apr 1st, 2011, 09:29 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 29,053
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
amazing....could you drive yourself there?
rhkkmk is offline  
Old Apr 1st, 2011, 10:19 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 6,365
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Amazing pics Lori, I see Pon was with you. Beautiful patterns on the weavings. Do they sell them? I know Bob missed it but about how "expensive" would it be to hire a driver r/t?

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Old Apr 1st, 2011, 04:54 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,418
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
It would cost about $350 to hire a driver RT from Siem Reap, much less from Phnom Penh. From Siem Reap roads (or lack thereof) are such that you have to go to Phnom Penh anyway then all the way back up. The last 4 hours of the journey is on dirt but they are feverishly working on that road. When they do, they will start putting the "good buses" on the route and it will improve tremendously. Of course then, the place will be covered in tourists and get wrecked.

If you want to see places that are undisturbed, you just gotta bite it.

You can't "drive yourself" since foreigners can't rent cars here.
offwego is offline  
Old Apr 1st, 2011, 09:32 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,860
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I am so jealous, Lori. Looks like this was amazing trip, and how fun to go with Ponheary too. I'm hoping the rains will stop early enough that I can go next fall.

If not, are the roads from Siem Reap to Kampot passable in October?
lcuy is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 01:20 AM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,418
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yes Lcuy the road to Kampot is paved so no problem going there I should think. I would say though, that bad roads or no bad roads, there's no point in going to Ratanakiri if you don't have about 5-6 days to give to it. You need time to get out to the villages to really experience it and of course a solid day travel each way. Ponheary adds "you need also one day to recover from bus-lag"
offwego is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 01:22 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,418
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yes Lcuy the road to Kampot is paved so no problem going there I should think. I would say though, that bad roads or no bad roads, there's no point in going to Ratanakiri if you don't have about 5-6 days to give to it. You need time to get out to the villages to really experience it and of course a solid day travel each way. Ponheary adds "you need also one day to recover from bus-lag"

Yes HT the textiles are sold if you can find a local guide who is welcome in the villages. They are not sold in town; I've not seen them in Seim Reap either. I bought 60!
offwego is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 08:33 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 714
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Untouched, Undeveloped, Un-everything sounds great but the bus ride is too BRUTAL. How long is the bus ride from Phnom Penh? What about accommodation? Are they homestays?
Even Time Square in NYC is looking more Disney-esque every time I went there and the tragic thing is that that's what most people want and that's what attract tourists.
mohan is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 11:28 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 2,767
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Loved the pictures. Would love to get back and see more of Cambodia.
dgunbug is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 12:26 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,408
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Does that mean you had to go from SR to PP first to get the bus from there? That bus ride is reminding me of a certain boat ride we took. ;-)

Is that $350 estimate for a driver for 5-6 days, all in, including gas? If so, it might not be a bad deal for 3-4 people.
And if going directly from PP as part of another trip made sense then it would certainly be worth it (I'm not a fan of buses with no toilet).
I'm sure the bus was super cheap, but did you have to have a car/drive once you got there to get around to the villages or did you rent motorbikes? That's going to add to the expense for 3 ppl as well.
Kristina is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 01:43 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,860
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Kristina, Will you be going to Cambodia next fall? Want to share a car to Ratanakiri?
lcuy is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 06:35 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,408
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
lcuy- Now wouldn't that be fun? No plans as of right now, but I'd like to go back next year. However, I think the next trip might need to be when my husband is available to volunteer which would mean summer. BTW, did you see my Japan itinerary thread? I hate to beg, but there really has been no reply...
Kristina is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 08:26 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,860
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I didn't see it! I'll mosey on over there in a few minutes....
lcuy is offline  
Old Apr 3rd, 2011, 06:18 AM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,418
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
There are some nice digs in Banlung. We stayed at Tree Tops for $12 a night for a double. No AC, no hot water, but didn't need either. Good food there as well. Traditional wooden bungalows overlooking a small valley. Really nice. There's also a French place called Terre Rouge that has a pool, a spa and some amenities for $50 a night. There are homestays as well, but no need to stay in them unless you're trekking or just a glutton for punishment. We stayed in Banlung and day tripped out to villages in a car.

K~the $350 is for transport TO AND FROM Banlung, not during the stay. Add to that a local guide with a car $65 a day. We also paid $20 a day for a boat (2 hours each way) that took us to the cemeteries. You would absolutely need to be with a local guide who is known by the hilltribes in order to be welcome in the villages. Some driver from Siem Reap would be worthless both in terms of not knowing where to go and not being able to make us welcome. In rainy season you have to trek (with leech socks, ick) into the villages, cars can't go.

Yes you can bus up from Phnom Penh, which would make it a 6-8 hour journey if all goes well.

C'mon K, we can always take the "Happy Cooler!~" heh.
offwego is offline  
Old Apr 3rd, 2011, 06:20 AM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,418
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
forgot to mention the bus from Siem Reap is $15 one way, from Phnom Penh $8. You'll want to buy two seats
offwego is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2011, 08:37 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 714
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks offwego. no AC no hot water buying 2 seats I can deal with. No toilet on the bus and not speaking the language is a concern. BTW, Do you have a blog? You must come across so many interesting places and events.
mohan is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2011, 02:34 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,897
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Okay Lori, finally got to this and checked out your EXCELLENT photos. I'm glad to know you and live vicariously through your posts but I'm a wimp when it comes to no hot water and 18 hour bus rides when we get so little time off. Can you just tell the folks at Ratanakiri to wait until we are retired? ;-)
Craig is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2011, 01:18 AM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,418
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Mohan, if you have a Facebook account,go and friend "Seven Candles Guesthouse" I don't have a blog but have started doing some posting there. And "no toilet on the bus" is not an issue if you are okay going in the bushes. Someone on the bus will invariably holler for a stop every hour or so, that's part of why it takes so long. Otherwise they stopped every three or so hours at a "toilet".

Not speaking the language makes it all more the more fun. Every cambodian on the bus will be looking after you, worrying over you, gathering around every time you open your laptop, just continually interested in you and what you are doing and what you need and especially WHY you need two seats....one lady announced to the others that one seat was for me and one for my very nice computer...the driver knows where you are going and how to get you there, it's all good. You are family by the time you get off that bus.

Craig you better hurry up
offwego is offline  
Old Apr 15th, 2011, 09:31 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 714
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks off. I'll go to fb.
I can go behind bushes like my ancestors but will need some practise.
'..Not speaking the language makes it all more the more fun...' It can be more fun, can be very romantic but sometimes pantomine can only go so far.
'...Every cambodian on the bus will be looking after you, worrying over you...' I know that. I love people from S.E.Asia and I am married to one. They are very nice people indeed. Everytime I go there I don't want to come back here.
mohan is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -