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Reflections on a different side of the Kingdom

Reflections on a different side of the Kingdom

Tivea Koam and Dara Saoyuth report back from Mondulkiri, home to some of the most spledid sights in the Kingdom.

Although it may be years before rural provinces becomes full fledged tourist attractions, but if Mondulkiri is any indication, change is definitely underway in the Cambodian countryside. Photo by: DARA SAOYUTH

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These guys weren’t part of our adventure. They were working on a major infrastructure project in Mondulkiri. Photo by: DARA SAOYUTH

The eight-hour trip on the bus to Mondulkiri was the longest journey of my life. To reach the final destination of our class trip to one of Cambodia’s most beautiful places we passed through Kandal, Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces. The trip wasn’t going to be all fun, as my media and communications classmates and I were divided into groups to do class projects about eco-tourism. However, we were sure to find plenty of time for fun on the trip.

Being used to watching never ending traffic and looking at buildings that reach high into the sky, I really enjoyed the view along the way to Mondulkiri, filled with various types of trees, expansive fields and rolling mountains. Once the long trip was finally over we were dropped off at the city centre, where we checked out the central market and surrounding parks. The market was small and unimpressive and the park was filled with dust instead of flowers, so we weren’t anxious to stick around.

Since 80 percent of the population was comprised of ethnic minorities, making me think the area would be rural with outdated technology, I was surprised to see the town had plenty of guesthouses and karaoke bars. It seemed there were very few differences between life out here and back in Phnom Penh.

But, after talking to some of the native people I began to notice some gaps between urban folk and ethnic minorities in more remote places. The indigenous people often live alongside nature and make a living off it by farming and growing vegetables. Among other things, living deep in the forest or far away from civilisation makes it harder for ethnic minorities to get to school and receive a proper education. Now that industry is beginning to get started in the province, people are able to improve their lives and start their own businesses. We saw an example of this during two nights of parties at Angkor Forest Guesthouse, where we were staying, when people were invited to dance to Khmer music and indigenous music from the local minority population.

The hardest part of staying in the northern forest of Cambodia was the uncomfortably chilly temperatures at night and first thing in the morning.  I had to cover myself with two blankets just to sleep and wear a sweater when I left my room. Beyond that, I liked everything in Mondulkiri, especially the natural tourism sites. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to say yes if anyone asked me to go there again.  
-Dara Saoyuth

Mondulkiri province, located in the far northeast of the country, is far from Phnom Penh and the other well-known centres of tourism and industry in Cambodia, however, the province is gaining a reputation as an idyllic ecotourism site, and is starting to look like it too. With attractions like thick forests, untouched mountains, waterfalls and communities of indigenous Cambodians, I was able to find plenty of interesting things to do for three days. I was amazed with the flowers and forest views passing by as we drove through the mountains. The forests, bodies of water and Dos Kromom mountain, unique spectacles in the Kingdom, instantly made me joyful. With a clear blue sky on one side and an early evening sunset on the other, along with the sprawling meadows and fresh mountain air touching my skin, I forgot work, and everything in the city, and left my worries behind.

One of the most popular places to visit is the Bou Sra and Sen Monorrom waterfalls, which take your breathe away with their intense beauty. These are two of the natural attractions that are bringing more tourists and development to the area.

Despite being much smaller than my home city of Phnom Penh, it was clear that peoples’ lifestyles in Mondulkiri were quite up to date, with teenagers sporting fashionable hairstyles, clothing and possessions they have probably seen on television.

Modern houses have been built, making the city look more elegant, and telecommunications and technology have allowed the city to stay connected with the outside world. Although some places in the province don’t have TV or internet connections, they at least have internet shops open for people to use.

The rural province has made progress in terms of development, for tourism and otherwise, but it still has a long way to grow. There are some destinations for tourists but there haven’t been a lot of services built around them with restaurants or hotels. Businesses and universities are scarce, which means that many locals leave to improve their chances in business or continue their education.  There also remains a narrow range of food choices, as wild animal meat seemed to be one of the most popular dishes on the menus around town.

With its diversity of culture, wonderful people and breathtaking scenery, Mondulkiri and its population of more than 60,000 is quickly developing as a future centre for adventurous tourists. It will take years to see if it catches on; however, it is exciting to see that Cambodia’s countryside is capitalising on the development going on in the rest of the country. 
-Tivea Koam


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