After a day perched atop an elephant, we decided to give our bodies (READ: our groins) a rest and venture around Mondulkiri on another mode of transportation: the almighty moto. Now, granted, riding a moto for extended periods of time also puts a substantial strain on your glutes, but it is considerably faster than the long strides of Elephas maximus. And boy does that cool wind feel good going through my nowtoolongformyliking locks. But as these two wheels took me from waterfalls to jungles to viewpoints, I kept hoping my driver would slam his steed into fourth gear and drive me till Earth’s end.
We started our second day sleeping a little longer than we normally do, so we woke up sometime around 8 (an almost nonexistent time back home in the States). We called up the moto which brought us to our lodgings on the first day we arrived, a man by the name of Mony who also happened to be a licensed (whatever that means in Cambodia) tour guide and spoke remarkably good English, to take us around for the day. Our first stop: Bou Sraa, the most famous falls in Cambodia. Located about 40 km outside of the city and just mere kilometers away from the Vietnamese border, the ride to Bou Sraa could possibly be the most scenic route in all of Cambodia. The road (half paved, half not) goes up, down, and curves all around the rolling hills of Mondulkiri. On one hand you feel like you are speeding through deep, lush jungle and on the other you are perched high atop a mountain looking out over the landscape. While my butt told me otherwise, I just wanted the drive to keep going just a little longer every time we stopped.
Bou Sraa is a massive, two-tiered waterfall, equal parts beauty and strength. The mist coming off the falls makes the grounds wet and the air particularly chilly, but a quick climb up the side can protect you from some of the mist and offers a very close up view of the falls. From any place we stood, Bou Sraa offered up great picturesque views and is definitely a must see sight if you ever make it out to this neck of the woods.
After Bou Sraa, we took a short moto ride and turned onto a dirt trail which had been a little beaten up from the previous night’s rain, meaning it was almost mud. Luckily, Mony was pretty adept to riding in this kind of terrain and we eventually stopped next to another flowing river. We hiked along the side of the river, through a forest of fichus trees and bamboo stalks. Along the way, Mony bent down and picked the shoots of the bamboo stalks so he could later cook them, I am sure. A short hike led us to a small clearing right next to the river, where I decided to wash some of the mud off of my shoes while Mony and Brenna hiked a little further. They would eventually (I hoped) come back to me.
This small trek was followed by lunch at the Mondulkiri coffee plantation, responsible for the production of the deliciously strong Mondulkiri coffee around town. We ate some really good ban chou while sitting lakeside (well, pondside). Ban chou and coffee anyone? Maybe not the greatest combination, but I had to try the coffee straight from the source! We walked around the plantation for a bit and were told that a company was looking to buy out the plantation for 1 million dollars, but the owners are unwilling to sell. Stick it to the man, Mondulkiri.
It was now time to make the climb up to the summit of Phnom Bai Chuw in order to see what the locals call the Sea of Trees. I thought that the drive up here was pretty steep. Then, that was trumped by the small hills that made my heart stop a little on the way to our bungalow. But the climb up this hill was really quite steep, but our little moto made it. A pit stop along the way landed us in some remote jungle, where we decided to be like the monkeys and climb a very large tree. That doesn’t give Westerners a bad rep right? The strange stares and giggles from Mony might have suggested otherwise. Eventually, we made it to the top, where the view was quite spectacular. Indeed, the landscape was a vast sea of green (so obviously an apt name) that seemed to hit the horizon and never looked back.
This concluded the sightseeing, so we got dropped off in town where we walked some of the streets (there are really only like two in this provincial capital) and did a little shopping. I bought some coffee and we brought home some avocados for Mommy, as Mondulkiri is the only place in Cambodia they grow naturally. We then got dropped off back at our bungalow, and the night concluded with me continuing to beat Brenna at pool game after game
And so concludes the Mondulkiri adventures. It really was one of the most beautiful places I have seen, and definitely a different side to Cambodia than what I have so far experienced. The air in Mondulkiri is fresher, the land a clash of clay red and green life, and the mighty elephants roam the land claiming it as their own. While it may not be on the typical tourist circuit, if you have the time, take the 8 hour trip out here and I assure you that you will fall in love with Cambodia all over again.