Explore Renatakiri and Mondulkiri with Private Guide
The Great Eastern Circle is a private independent tour that takes you to a vast part of Cambodia that few tourists ever see. (If you go there you will become an adventurer, not a mere tourist.)
There is much much more to Cambodia than Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh and a couple of beach resorts. The northeastern part of the country is barely developed for tourism. You will probably not see tour buses there, or even many visitors. What you will see is the breathtaking beauty of unspoiled landscapes, waterfalls, elephants, villages, and indigenous people who have mostly been left behind by time. You can enjoy this itinerary clockwise or anti-clockwise and connect seamlessly with other tours we offer to make a longer and more extensive adventure of a lifetime. While Purple Dragon pioneered LGBTQ tours in Cambodia, we welcome everyone to become an adventurer with us.
You can easily connect to our Road Less Traveled overland route to Siem Reap by doing this itinerary in reverse and continuing to Kompong Tom from Kompong Cham at the end. Add our Kep & Bokor National Park program at the very beginning and you end up with an incomparable Cambodia Grand Tour.
Day One: Kompong Cham and a Temple Within a Temple
Morning arrival at Phnom Penh airport and drive to Kompong Cham, which gets its name from the people of the Cham empire who occupied much of Central Vietnam and parts of Cambodia centuries ago. Visit Phnom Pros (Pros Hill) with its collection of temples. After a lunch you may dream about for years, visit wat Hanchey, Wat Nokor Bachey, about ten minutes away. This nearly-pristine 11th century Hindu temple is unusual because of the Buddhist temple later built within the structure. The painted columns and ceiling make it among the most colorful and unusual Buddhist houses of worship in Cambodia.
Later, continue you follow the Mekong to Kratie with a trip through a rubber plantation. You'll also see a bamboo bridge that spans the Mekong and connects Kompong Cham with Koh Trong. At nearly 1km long, it's the longest bamboo bridge in the world. It is rebuilt every dry season and is considered an engineering fete. Koh Trong has timeless villages of traditional wooden houses. If time permits you can rent a bicycle to explore the island, which is only 9 km around. If you are lucky you might spot Irrawadi Dolphins, which are not uncommon in this part of the Mekong. You will have a tour of Kratie by horse cart, that also takes in a floating village, where locals make fish paste and fishing gear. Overnight in Kratie.
Day Two: Kratie, a Turtle Sanctuary, and Ranatakiri
Kratie sightseeing includes a tour of the town in a horse-drawn cart this morning before pressing on to Ratanakiri Province. Visit Wat Sorsor Muy Roi, the "100 columns temple" and the tomb of the princess Kror Pom Chuk. According to local people, she died after being attacked by crocodiles, and her spirit still haunts the area. If time permits you may be able to visit the soft turtles conservation center, which helps protect the wild population of one of the biggest rarest fresh-water turtles in the world.which borders Laos. (If you like you can visit the local Soft Turtle Conservation Center.) "Ranatakiri" comes from Sanskrit and suggests a place of gems and mountains. You will have a short night market tour on arrival, where you can authentic local culinary specialties and interact with the locals. You spend night in Banglung.
Day Three: A Bamboo Forest, an Animist Cemetary, a Volcano and Monorom
Drive through a bamboo forest to Veun Sai District, where you enjoy a boat trip on the Tonle San River to visit Koh Peak Village, home of the Kachork people, a tribe of animists (spirit worshipers). In the cemetery near the village they erect elaborate totums in a series of rituals before abandoning graves to the jungle. Later, you will visit Yak Loam Lake, the crater of an ancient volcano. The water is nearly fifty meters deep and is sparking clear. You'll probably see abundant scenery and many waterfalls along the way. And yes, your driver will stop for photos and short visits whenever you like, as long as you get to Mondul Kiri before dark. Sen Monorom, three nights.
Day Four: Watch the Elephants Work in Mondulkiri
Early morning visit to a hill tribe market where people from the area's ethnic minorities gather to trade produce from their farms as well as various hand-made materials. After breakfast you you drive south to Mondul Kiri province, which sits on the Vietnamese border. While it is Cambodia's largest province, it is also the kingdom's most sparsely inhabited. Home to coffee and cashew plantations, Mondulkiri is best remembered for spectacular waterfalls and villages that still rely on working elephants.
Day Five: Pou Tang Village and Multiple Waterfalls
You have some hiking/trekking today--how much is up to you. You are headed to Pou Tang Village, first by pick-up truck, then a walk of about four km, which will include visits to Bursa Waterfall and Samut Cher--an "ocean of trees" vista point looking over the vast, green Mondulkiri landscape below. If you want a longer walk (about four hours/14km) you will see more waterfalls, streams and a bamboo forest. You will also have swimming opportunities. Pou Tang is a real village--not a piece of tourist theatre. You get to interact with the locals, eat local food and spend the night here if you decide to add the sixth day, which is optional. If you prefer to stay in the hotel where you spent the previous two nights
Day Six: Wash Your Pachyderm
This day is optional and at an additional cost. Unless you want to spend an extra night (either in the village or your hotel) you return to Phnom Penh this morning. Along the way you stops to see Kouy, Charai, and Phnong communities of indigenous people. Arrive back in Phnom Penh airport in time for your flight to your next destination.
If you decide to add the extra day you will spend it in the company of elephants. From a local village you trek through the jungle to Phandung Farm to visit the elephants who live there. During the day you will learn about how to care for working elephants in a sanctuary protects them. Many of these animals no longer work for a living because they have been replaced by machines or because they have been abused. You will get to interact with one or more elephants, including feeding and bathing them.