I oversleep and get up only at 7:40 am. We pack our stuff, meet the guide and ride to the market to have breakfast. The guides’ name is Tina, if I got it right. He is 23 years old and Khmer from Kampong Cham. He came to Mondulkiri some years ago to help his sister running a guesthouse. Now he is involved in various aspects of the emerging tourism sector. The numbers of tourists to Mondulkiri has significantly increased with the newly build road. Yet only very rarely we see tourist during this stay in Mondulkiri.
This is a huge beetle. I have seen it at night flying around which was a scary thing to observe. In the morning I watch this insect while it attempts to go underground. I have gotten the pack of chewing gum in the market in Kampong Cham when I bought a phone card.
Initially we wanted to go to Bou Sraa waterfalls, which is maybe the most popular spot to visit from Sen Monorom. However, after I thought about it I change the plan. I had learnt that the way to Bou Sraa waterfalls is relatively easy to find and does not necessitate a guide. I cannot easily afford paying Tina 10 bucks just for company and think for today it is more suitable to explore various spots closer to Sen Monorom. The trip to Bou Sraa is considered relatively difficult and my guide book suggests to spend the night in Bou Sraa district town and travel back the next day. As we have spend the entire day on the bikes yesterday and have the guide today I suggest to stick to the places where it is more valuable to have a guide. We agree to visit Dak Dam village, Poutrou village, the Romanear waterfalls, among others.
This is where we have breakfast in the market.
Pongro decides he should go to the hospital have his wound cleared from dust, which I think is a good idea. Meanwhile Tina and I buy lunch packets and water. The market is an interesting place to be in and observe people doing their businesses. However, I cannot identify from the appearance the ethnic identity of those people. I get to talk to a Phnong man who actually is the first indigenous person I meet in Cambodia who speaks English.
We pick up Pongro at the hospital, fill up the bikes and get started to Poutrou and Dak Dam villages. We travel about 10 km following the road on which we came here. Then we turn east towards the close Vietnamese border and follow a smaller road, leading further up the mild mountain with the long grass. I feel the scenery is very beauty-and peaceful.
The road is in good condition and a relaxed ride.
We offered Tina to choose on whose bike he wants to go. He chose Pongro. I am concerned since I could not convince him to borrow a helmet.
This is when we have a break on top of a mountain, looking down at Dak Dam village.
Dak Dam village is inhabited by ethnic Phnong and pretty much in the center of the picture. Maybe the long roof of the school building can be recognized on the small copy.
This road is very nice to ride.
This is in the village. As usual we meet only very few people, since everybody is working in the field by now.
This is an old Chinese motor bike, which I found all over Cambodia but particularly frequently up here in the northeast. Those motor bikes are said to be reliable and strong.
Those are traditional jars commonly used for rice wine among various indigenous groups.
We find a man and are allowed to enter one of those houses, which are said to have not changed in style for many centuries. Those are jars which I learn are more than thousand years old, which is difficult to imagine. Next to the jar at the very right is one of the traditional gongs. There are various sorts of gongs used at different occasions. Jars and gongs are among the most valuable possessions of indigenous communities both in traditional and spiritual as well as material terms. During the times of Pol Pot those objects were buried in hidden places in the jungle and in many cases they still wait in the ground. This might indicate that members of those communities still worry about persecution.
We talk to the guy and learn that he makes a living with collecting raisin from trees. This is done by burning a hole into the tree and wait for the raisin to run out. I try to find out more about this business. I learn that Phnong as well as Khmer people have this occupation. For a container with 38 liter of raisin the price in Sen Monorom is about 25.000 Riel, which is about 6 dollars. I think this is nothing given the amount of time and labor necessary to collect so much raisin. The guy does not know the price in Phnom Penh.
We spent some time and then leave. CPP is very popular up here.
We keep going for some time straight through the wide landscape and reach the Romanear waterfalls after about 20 minutes.
Upstream: At this time of the year this is just a small creek.
Downstream: this is about 4 meter high, I guess. Nicely situated and idyllic but not very spectacular.
We actually meet three tourists here who came with motos and two guides. Tina lets me know that those people are Germans but for some reasons I do not feel a strong need to talk to them. However, later we exchange some words and after switching to German having a lengthy discussion.
Worth mentioning is that one of them was actually Sandra, who I met on two other occasions already, which is strange enough. The first time I met her at a party in Phnom Penh and learnt that she is engaged in a print media project in Siem Reap supported by the Adenauer Foundation, I belief. This project was in some ways part of finalizing her studies and in this regard what I am doing here is somewhat similar. Strange enough that I meet Sandra again and here at the waterfall in Mondulkiri.
Even stranger, I had met Sandra in between, at a party of Katrin. This party took place in Berlin some weeks ago, in Katrin’s flat. Katrin was working in Cambodia, too and like me on aspects of indigenous rights. And it was through Katrin that I got to know Sandra. Meanwhile I just moved into the flat of Toby, who is Katrin’s partner and has been working for a number of years in Cambodia, but is transiently in Berlin right now.
So we talk for some time and I learn all three of them have occupations associated with media.
We then decide to continue to the next waterfall, which is Sen Monorom waterfall. I hope I am not mistaken here, since many locations have more than one name.
The road is still nice to ride. On a different way we go back until we reach the main road again.
Over there is Sen Monorom.
From here we travel about 20 km more in the direction to Phnom Penh. Then we turn left, cross a small bridge and park the bikes after a few hundred meters. Walking down the hill we find the waterfall, a number of huts where one can sit and have food. Some people are burning leaves.
Some time later the media people arrive again and we spend maybe two hours with good conversation. This picture is the evidence. Sandra is the third person from the left.
After the media people leave we have food and hang out for some more time. Once in a while we see tourists, but all of them Khmer. Observing them is a funny thing to do, particular when it comes to couples. The behavior of tourists from Phnom Penh does not seem to be much less foreign to local people compared to Barang.
This is the waterfall.
Then we move to make it to Poutang village and Sihanouk waterfall before it gets dark. Again we ride back to the main road and follow it with direction to Sen Monorom. About 10 km before the provincial capital we turn left and follow a much smaller track, which cannot easily be recognized from the road.
We continue riding on the top of a mountain range
Down there is the main road.
This is when we reach Poutang Village.
Again hardly anybody seems to be at home.
The style of this construction in the center of the village is very much Khmer. And so is the new construction behind it to the right.
There appears to be a new well funded by Echo, which to my knowledge is a program of the European Union.
When we get back to the motos we find an old man sitting close to them. We show respect, sit down for some time and talk to him. I learn that he is some sort of local pop star, since his face is on many posters promoting Mondulkiri as a tourist destination. He is actually 70 years old. And he has many names which I fail to recall. We talk about his teeth, which he actually cut with a saw (common practice in Phnong communities until recently). He has been living here for a long time but fled under Pol Pot.
When I ask whether I can take a picture I learn the price is 1500 Riel. I feel a bit irritated but than give him some money and take the picture. I should stress that I did not ask him to sit in front of the moto, but it was here where we found him.
A number of children have gathered around us, looking skeptically at what we are doing. I feel they behave significantly shyer than their Khmer pendants.
I ask the man which language those children speak to each other and learn that it is Phnong.
I see only two buffalos but those ones are particularly big.
Then we continue to Sihanouk waterfalls. This is a rid of about 5 km from here and the road is getting a bit tougher, while shadows are getting longer. When we reach the waterfall there is not much light anymore to take pictures.
This is how raisin is taking from trees. This hole is actually burnt into the tree with fire. Later the raisin is being collected.
It does not take us long from here back to Sen Monorom. It is not yet dark when we reach it and I suggest we go to the Doh Kromom mountain at the old airport to oversee the landscape during the sunset. In order to reach Doh Kromom we have to pass the town and the easiest way is the runway of the old airport. So we travel those about 1000 m with the highest speed possible with those bikes, which is a dusty affair. Then we ride up the hill until we reach the small pagoda on top.
Down there is Sen Monorom with the runway to the left and one of the small lakes to the right.
This hill is called Doh Kromom and this actually means bosom in Khmer. I learn this is because the mountain looks like a women without a head lying on her back. We are actually standing on one breast and over there is the other one.
Tina is giving visual aid to help us recognizing the lady but I fail to see it.
Pongro even climbs the tree but cannot see it either.
Very much against my habits I provide a sunset picture here.