EXPLORING KATIENG WATERFALL, RATANAKIRI
Ratanakiri province, tucked far in the north east of Cambodia, is known for its waterfalls and swimming spots. Most famous for Yeak Laom Lake, a volcanic crater in admist beautiful forest. However, Katieng Waterfall is another peaceful swimming spots easily explored from the provincial capital Banlung.
The north east, like much of Cambodia, has two seasons. Wet and dry. During the dry, roads are dusty, the sun is extremely hot and the nights can even bit a little cool (Nov-April). However, during wet season (May-October) Ratanakiri is can be challenging, but all the more worthwhile! The rain is heavier than other parts of Cambodia, and dusty roads quickly turn to muddy rivers almost impossible to drive on. Yet the luscious green of the countryside and jungle make this a pretty special place. Come prepared with raincoat and sturdy shoes if you are planning a waterfall exploration during the wet.
The time of my visit, April, is one of the hottest parts of the year in Cambodia. I decided for an early morning departure for the waterfalls North west of Banlung. I hired a mountain bike from my guest house ($4) before setting off for south for Katieng Waterfall.
I stopped quickly at the local market for breakfast. At the front of market, Indigenous women come from villages further out to sell tomachiet (organic) produce. Much of the green leafy vegetables I had never seen before. The ladies sat on tarpaulin mats with their freshly picked vegetable and fruit laid out in from of them. There were more banana than I had even seen in my life, herbs, cucumbers, fish from nearby rivers and green papaya. I purchased some bananas (just over fifty cents for more than I could ever eat) and some local snacks for the road – waffles made from coconut and rice flour (25c) and a rice and taro wrapped in banana leaf (25c) – delicious.
ON THE ROUD TO KATIENG
The road to Katieng (N78) is mostly downhill out of Banlung. As I started to climb up again, I took a left turn of the highway. I cycled past rubber and cashew plantations. A sign for Katieng indicated an right turn and this is where things got a little tricky.
This part of the road was dusty and sandy. The beautiful red soil of Ratanakiri was abundant on this road. So at times, cycling was a bit tough going. I could only imagine in the wet! Yet it was this road that took you past beautiful scenes. Small villages, smiling children and the simmetery of rubber trees were gorgeous to pass.
It took me about 1 hour to reach Katieng Waterfall and I was pretty hot by the time I arrived. I paid my 2000 riel (50c) entry and walked by bicycle to park it under a nearby tree. I walked pass the shops and local restaurant and headed straight for the waterfall.
SWIMMING IN THE WATERFALL
From the top you can look out across to large trees on the opposite bank. The view of the waterfall is pretty stunning from the top. The water cascades from a gentle pool at the top and drops down at least 10ms to a larger pool below.
I head for the steps that lead me to the bottom pool. I was the only one there, and this made the experience that little bit more special. The rock cavern of the waterfall provides shelter around the perimeter and seems to lower the temperature a few degrees – perfect for the hot weather of Arpil
Desperate for a swim, I placed by back on a large rock before wading into the water. I floated in the waterfall for a good hour before drying off. I spent my morning relaxing next to the waterfall, reading a book and watching as butterflies fluttered past me.
Beginning to feel hungry, I headed back up to the entrance and feasted on rice with steamed fish. Although the shop keeper spoke minimal English we were able to use gestures to communicate and the food she served was absolutely delicious.
For only 2000 riel, Katieng Waterfall is a pretty affordable morning or afternoon. Although the road can be a bit tricky, the landscape that you can explore and people that you will encounter make it a must-do for this with time in Banlung.