Steph's Asia Trip
Not actually in Mondulkiri now - back in Phnom Penh, but got back yesterday. I spent the last 5 days in the North East of Cambodia in the Mondulkiri province in a town called Sen Monorom. It's in the hills, much cooler than Phnom Penh, which was refreshing, and it's very sparsely populated. I went with Claire and 3 of the volunteers she's working with. We took a pick-up truck there, which was an interesting experience. The journey took 10 hours and they were going to try and get 6 people (in addition to the driver!!) in the back of the pick-up - not in the boot bit, but in the cabin!! That would be 2 of us in the front (3 including the driver) and 4 in the back seats!! Crazy - they really are insane when it comes to transporting people - how could anyone think that was a good idea for a few mintues, let alone a 10 hour journey!! In the end, we payed for an extra seat, so there were only 5 of us in there, 2 in the front next to the driver and 3 across the back - still a bit squashed, but considerably less than if there were 6 of us!! (the 6th person would have been any random person they could find). So we started the journey. I did think that 10 hours was a long time to make the journey, but I hadn't really appreciated why. You could actually do the journey in about 6 (I reckon) if you drove pretty much solidly. On this journey we stopped an amazing amount of times for a variety of wierd and wonderful reasons. These included - picking up randoms to sit in the boot, stopping to allow water buffalo to cross the road, stopping to talk to fellow Cambodians (a lot), stopping for lunch (crucial stop really), stopping to go to the loo in bushes (again, crucial), stopping to take a detour to a brick factory to pick up a truck load of bricks. Actually, the brick factory was quite an interesting experience because I'd quite wanted to see the brick factories. I'd seen lots of them around Cambodia - they're huge kilns with piles of fired and non-fired bricks outside. What I hadn't realised is they have no doors - they just brick up the door before they fire up the kiln!! We had 3 rather muscular men load up our truck with bricks - made quite a nice interlude to the journey. We also stopped to sell our spare tyre to a broken down pick-up driver - this worried me. But we got to Mondulkiri in one piece. The roads were pretty bad for the last 4 hours, but bareable. At one point we had a man sitting in the back (boot bit) and he fell off the pick-up because the roads were so bumpy!! We couldn't believe it!!! Obviously we stopped to put him back on. The views and scenery were stunning as we approached Mondulkiri - we went through jungle and then rolling hills - very picturesque. The next day we walked to a nearby waterfall and saw the small town (Sen Monorom) we were staying in - everything there was very basic and the scenery was strangely familiar. Apart from the red soil, the landscape was very much like England - it was quite strange! The next day we decided to do a 2 day elephant trek. I was really excited about this!! I'd never been on an elephant before!! It was sooooooooo cool!! Claire and I shared an elephant and the trek took 4 hours, after which we reached a very small tribal village where we stayed the night. The tribal village was in a valley - again, very sceneic, and there were 3 bamboo huts, housing 5 families. The tribal people didn't speak Khmer (or English - obviously!!) so we didn't really communicate much with them. It was a really interesting experience! We had a lovely dinner made by our guide using a lot of the jungle vegetation and we also killed a chicken!! That was really interesting too!! They killed a chicken for us (they spent ages trying to get it with a sling-shot until one man managed to grab it and ring its neck!!) and then i watched them gut it and wash it in the river, before chopping it up to put in our food! Tasted very good. Oh!! I also ate frog!! How sick is that!!!?? Tasted a lot like chicken - wouldn't make a special effort to have it again - I think chicken is better - but at least I've tried it!! See the photo - they look sooooo gross! They had chickens, pigs, and dogs at the village - they made a lot of noise at night and early morning- I was very glad of my ear plugs! The next morning we got up, had breakfast (noodles and vegetabels - very strange breakfeast food - not keen on savory breakfasts unless it's eggs and bacon) then we washed the elephants!! That was really cool! The elephants were so well behaved - the drivers got them to come into the stream and then they lay down in the water so they could be washed - they looked like they quite enjoyed it!! Then we got back on the elephants for another 4 hour trek back to where we'd strated. We then walked down a very muddy path to a waterfall, where Claire managed to get sooooo muddy it amazed me - I think she spent more time on her bum than her feet! I wish i'd got some photos of her - it was so funny! We then got motos back to our guest house. On the final day we left for Phnom Penh - another 10 hour journey - that was yesterday. Today I've been sorting stuff out (laundry etc..)and tomorrow I leave to go South to Sihanoukville for a week. I'll have a look at the towns in that area. Am looking forward to a more laid back, beach environment - Phnom Penh is very busy, frantic and dirty - hopefully Sihanoukville will be cleaner! I leave tomorrow on the bus at 11:30 - will try to update the journal whilst I'm there.