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Exploring Mondulkiri

The remote eastern region of Mondulkiri is Cambodia's largest, yet it's the most sparsely populated province and traveling there is difficult. There is only one dirt road that takes you to the tiny provincial capital of Sen Monorom, a 10-hour trip from Phnom Penh. The initial part of the trip, to Snuol, is on well-surfaced roads. Once past Snuol, you hit mud in the rainy season and flying dust in the dry season. Like Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri is set on a plateau, making it different from the lowlands in both climate and vegetation. It gets very cool in winter. Mondulkiri is lined up for massive and controversial rubber cultivation. Logging has already ravaged this part of the world and the hills are largely bare. What remains is still alluring, with a unique beauty. Sen Monorom is very quiet, with just a few dirt tracks and one roundabout in the middle of a series of grassy rolling hills. There are two main streets in Sen Monoram and where they meet is the de facto center of town, where you will find guesthouses and restaurants. When your bus arrives there will be plenty of motodups to ferry you to your guesthouse of choice.

Mondulkiri's main attraction is itswaterfalls, and it's worth hiring a motodup to take you to the main ones rather than trying to negotiate the dusty tracks yourself. Bousra Waterfall is the largest waterfall within easy reach, about 35km (22 miles) from Sen Monorom. It takes 1 bumpy hour to get there. The falls are on two levels and the main rest area is between the two. On the upper level the falls are wide and swift. There are a couple of places to swim. The lower falls a far more narrow, but at 25m (82 ft.) they are far higher. If you cross the falls and take the path to your left you will reach a very uneven set of rough stairs that takes you to the base of the lower set of falls. A motodup will charge $10 for ferrying you about for the day, or you can hire your own bike for $7. Heading the opposite way out of town you will find are several smaller waterfalls near ethnic Phunong villages. Sen Monorom falls and Kbal Preah Waterfall make a nice afternoon excursion. Elephant treks cost $25 per person for the day and enable you to reach falls not accessible by vehicle. The trips usually start in a local Phnong village, and take about 2 hours. If you haven't traveled by elephant before, be warned it is hard work as the movements throw you around a bit. Sunset Hill is a good place to catch the sunset. You can also stop at Phnom Doh Kromom Pagoda, giving you a fine view of the rolling hills beyond.

The Long Vibol Guesthouse and Restaurant (past the airstrip; tel. 012/944-647; $10 double) is an established favorite with visiting NGO workers. Rooms have TVs, and the food is good though the service is extremely relaxed. Nature Lodge (tel. 012/230-272; www.naturelodgecambodia.com; $10 double) is an ecolodge that gets rave reviews and the Israeli/Khmer ownership has created a homey atmosphere. You will need to hire a motodup to find it.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.