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Ratanakiri revels

Photographer Franck

Nolot came back with this photo essay of the hidden delights of the

northeast province.

Gold rush: A miner from the Jarai hill tribe,

above, works by candlelight in hot and dangerous conditions 12 metres

underground. The pit is 50 km east of Ban Lung and is reached by paying the

elderly toll keeper 1,000 riel at the river bridge at Phum Pou to enter the

mining zone.

Using hammers and iron bars, workers chisel out chunks of

rock, which are carted to the surface for processing.

Search for golden grains: Once above ground the lode stones are

crushed by machine and then sieved by miners families' in the nearby river using

first washboard like wooden tools, then with traditional pans, below right.

Village of gems: The roughly 100 villagers of sprawling Bo Keo, which

is on the road to the gold mine, make their living from mining Zirconium

silicate, which can be processed into the translucent bluish white gem Zircon.

Miners simply dig out buckets of sand which are passed above ground for

their families to sift by hand.

Religious high: Women of the Krung hill tribe drink a rice whisky jar

dry as part of a lively four-day religious festival, below left. The revels took

place at a village 7 km north of Ban Lung.

Drinking began as early as 7

am with an average consumption of five litres. Men drank a bitter brew from

large jars through bamboo straws and women a sweeter concoction from smaller

jars.

Franck said the alcohol was pretty potent and after about ten

pulls on the straw he started forgetting about taking any more

photographs.

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