French-administered rubber plantations. The cityhas since all but dropped off the tourist radar.During the dry season, when the Mekong's water levels are low, you can cycle around thenearby island of Koh Paen. This rural island is agreat diversion on the route to or fromMondulkiri. Mondulkiri's hilly landscape is uniquewithin Cambodia and scattered with minorityvillages, majestic waterfalls, pine forest andpicturesque vistas.Sen MonoromNestled amongst rolling hills and lush forests liesSen Monorom, the tiny capital of Mondulkiri. Life here takes on an even slower pace thanelsewhere and the small market in the centre oftown is the hub of the community. Sen Monoromis an excellent starting point for exploring theregion. While accommodation here is basic, newoptions are constantly opening. Mondulkiri is bestknown for elephant trekking and the small villagesof Phulung and Putang offer treks ranging fromtwo hours to two days. The mighty Bou SraaWaterfalls are the largest and best known inCambodia, having been immortalised in song.Many ethnic minority villages can be visited inMondulkiri and they enjoy a different culture tothose in other provinces, evident in the uniquearchitecture of their homes and communallifestyle. We recommend at least three nights inSen Monorom to fully appreciate this province.KratieA lively town on the banks of the Mekong, Kratie is a popular stopover point on the overland route into Laos. It is home to a smallpopulation of endangered Irrawaddy dolphins andconservationists are working hard to preservetheir habitat. The dolphins are reasonably easy to spot, particularly during the dry season.Although hotels in the area are limited, staying ina local home or guesthouse will give you an evengreater insight into the Cambodian way of life.There are wonderful cycling routes, tree plantingprojects and visits to floating villages, giving youthe chance to be a part of the local communitieson the river.MondulkiriThe easternmost province of Mondulkiri is one of the last unexplored frontiers in Cambodia.Despite being the largest of Cambodia'sprovinces, it has a population of only 50,000,most of whom are Bunong (Pnong) and Khmer.The journey from Phnom Penh is now along agood sealed road, but can still take up to sevenhours. It is worth stopping at Skuon en route, asmall town from which the national delicacy ofdeep-fried tarantula originates. Another interestingstop-off point is Kompong Cham. Once animportant trading post, this cosmopolitanIndochinese river port supported the sprawling36Buddhist novices, Sen MonoromELIE ProjectThe Elephants Livelihood InitiativeEnvironment (ELIE), with the support ofthe Bunong minority villagers, rescuesand treats domestic elephants that havebeen mistreated. This truly uniqueexperience allows you to learn moreabout Cambodia's elephants and theefforts to protect them in the area.Emphasis is on observing the elephantsand helping to look after them ratherthan actually riding them, and this is agreat way to relax, take in the beautifulcountryside and learn a little more aboutthe Bunong minority culture. Trainedmahouts accompany you and theelephants during gentle walks throughthe jungle to waterfalls.
Northeast CambodiaThe few visitors who reach this remote corner of Cambodia get a real taste of the country'swilderness. The area feels tangibly remote as youdrive on red-dirt roads through wild scrub,plantations of rubber, cashew, pepper, andverdant forest. Waterfalls are numerous and thestunning crater lake of Boeng Yeak Lom, said tobe the home of mystical water spirits, is surelyone of the most scenic places in the country for a refreshing sunset swim.Ratanakiri ProvinceIn the far northeast of the country lies theprovince of Ratanakiri. During the 1960s, thisregion was the base for the Khmer Rouge andwhere Pol Pot spent much of his time. Rarelyvisited, this area is rich in natural beauty, withrivers traversing lush forests, cascadingoccasionally into waterfalls, and is home to manyminority tribes who have had little contact withthe wider world. Take a river journey up theTonle San to Kachon village, home of theTompuon people and their traditional cemeteries,complete with carved effigies and unique burialrituals. The stilted male and female huts found inRatanakiri's Kreung villages also provide a glimpseof the fascinating courting practices of the localpeople. Lao and Chinese communities can also befound in the area along with many minority tribes,making the region a melting pot of cultures.Ban LungAs the provincial capital of Ratanakiri, Ban Lungmakes an excellent base from which to explorethe many areas of interest in the province. Ban Lung has a feel of the 'wild east' about it,with dusty roads and just one main street. The town can be reached by road in a day fromthe riverside town of Kratie, or by a longerbumpy road journey from Cambodia's capitalPhnom Penh.TERRESROUGE, BANLUNGThis beautiful guesthouse was once a formerGovernor's residence and is without doubt themost charming in the north of Cambodia. Infusedwith Gallic charm, Terres Rouge is a wonderfulblend of dark wood, local textile wall hangingsand sculptures. The rooms in the main house arefan-cooled, while the newer bungalows dottedthroughout the gardens are air-conditioned. Eachis uniquely decorated, giving a sense of steppingback to a time of headhunters and explorers. The restaurant offers an extensive menu ofCambodian and French cuisine, while the well-stocked bar has been voted by Time Asia the'best bar in the middle of nowhere', perfect forunwinding after a day of exploration. Set awayfrom the main road amongst lush tropical gardensoverlooking the lake, the hotel also has a beautifulswimming pool, which makes this a great place tobase yourself while exploring the area.www.audleytravel.com/cambodia ?01993 838 160 ?Cambodia37Effigy in Tompuon cemetery, RatanakiriTerres Rouge, Ban LungBunong childrenBoeng Yeak Lom crater lake, RatanakiriCycling along an old runway in Sen MonoromWaterfall, Ratanakiri provinceMale and female houses in a Kreung village