hard work to find gemstones in ratanakiriIn the province of Ratanakiri, in the northeast of Cambodia, the locals are hard at work cultivating a range of produce, from cashews to bananas, sugar cane to glorious blue onyx gemstones.

From the main town Ban Lung, it's a short 18 mile (30 km) two-hour drive over rough roads to the mining town of Chum Rom Bei Srak.

In Chum Rom Bei Srak sorters are busy at work shifting through freshly-mined stones. As they expertly work their way through the pile, stopping occasionally to trim the stones with wire cutters, they check for cracks and flows that will determine whether the stone ends up a precious five carat jewel or less expensive one to two carat stones.

Ratanakiri, Cambodia Travel GuideThe northeastern corner of Cambodia, or the province of Ratanakiri, is gradually gaining tourist interest and rightfully so! It's abound with lush jungle, rivers and waterfalls.

For the exploration of the region, your only choice is the provincial capital Banlung. Not a particularly interesting town with wide dirt roads reminiscent of the American Wild West.

But, the surroundings of Banlung are beautiful and worth exploring.

[caption id="attachment_123" align="alignleft"]endangered tiger in Virachey National Park, CambodiaEndangered tiger in Virachey National Park, Cambodia[/caption]Virachey National Park is one of the top priority areas for conservation in Southeast Asia.

The park is located in Ratanakiri and Stung Treng Provinces in northeastern Cambodia covering an area of 3,325 km² and protecting flora and fauna of international conservation priority.

Many ethnic minority peoples live around the park.

At 3,325 square kilometers Virachey is the largest national park in Cambodia.

Together with adjacent protected areas in Laos and Vietnam collectively forms one of the largest areas of protected forest in Asia.