Eastern Cambodia borders Laos and Vietnam and includes the Mekong River as it flows through Cambodia. Most visitors do not spend much time here, choosing to visit either the south (Phnom Penh and the beaches) or west (Angkor Wat). Eastern Cambodia is quite remote and offers a wealth of wildlife and beautiful landscapes.
Most visitors head to Ratanakiri, a mountainous province. There are many eco-tourism destinations here and visitors can enjoy the unspoiled forests and see wildlife in its own habitat. The scenery is spectacular, with many waterfalls, forests and jungle. Visiting the ethnic minorities living in this region is an opportunity to learn about how they make a living, primarily from subsistence farming.
The most well known destination in eastern Cambodia is the Yeak Laom Volcanic Lake. Getting here can be quite arduous, as the road is not well maintained. In fact, reaching the lake during rainy season can be quite treacherous. This volcanic lake has incredibly clear water perfect for a dip once you arrive. Banlung is the capital of Ratanakiri province and has hotels, bars and shops that cater to visitors.
Bordering Ratanakiri province is Mondulkiri province, the most remote and least populated province in the country. The dramatic scenery is what attracts visitors to this area. Visitors also come to seek out the ethnic minorities that live here, especially the Phong, who are the largest group. The capital, Sen Monorom, has modern amenities and is a good starting point for excursions.
Kratie Province lies on the way to the eastern provinces from Phnom Penh, roughly 200 miles away. Most visitors come here to try to catch a glimpse of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. Although most visitors may not see a dolphin, it is definitely worth a try.
Getting to the eastern provinces in Cambodia can be something of an ordeal. Most visitors will take either a bus or a rental car (best with driver) from Phnom Penh. There are no airports in this region and the only way to travel is by road. Although generally safe, visitors should take the usual precautions when traveling in remote areas. It is important to hire a guide, join a tour or make good preparations.