For those who don’t know, Sen Monorom is a small town located six hours east of Phnom Penh. It is the capital of Mondulkiri Province.
Sen Monorom would have to be my favourite place in Cambodia. We loved the cooler temperature and overall peacefulness so much that we decided to extend our three day stay to a week, which in a small town, almost started to feel like we were locals.
For the first couple of nights we stayed at the Tree Lodge which was an experience in itself. During the day our bungalow was a cute little hangout but by night it turned into the insect tunnel scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom! From the giant (and I mean GIANT) beetle trying to fly into our mosquito net all night, to the ceiling stand off between a monstrous spider and a gecko on steroids. It’s safe to say it took us some time to get to sleep. We also thought that we heard the gecko drop from the ceiling during the night but we both didn’t want to turn the light on to find out. After our two nights, we decided to spend the remainder of our time in a little guesthouse called Sovrankiri which was in the centre of town and thankfully, bug-free.
The absolute highlight for me was the Mondulkiri Project. The community project is run by Mr Tree who was our amazing guide. We were lucky enough to meet, feed and wash all six of their rescued elephants. Each elephant had their preferred way of eating bananas; through their trunk, directly into their mouth or even from our mouths! The entire experience was incredible. The money from their elephant and jungle trek tours goes toward protecting the forest for their elephant sanctuary and supporting the local Bunong hill tribes with employment, healthcare and education. There were lots of tours to choose from but what I liked most about this one was that you couldn’t ride the elephants, something which damages their backs over time. Not even the mahouts (elephant carers) rode them or used any sort of force. The Mondulkiri Project is a fantastic initiative and if you are ever travelling through Cambodia, I highly recommend you do this elephant trek.
After our elephant experience, we decided to hire a motorbike and explore what Sen Monorom had to offer. We visited Bou Sraa Waterfall which is famous for its two tiers. This was the first time both Derek and I had ever gone under and through a waterfall! The 33km ride was so pretty and we decided to stop at a few lookouts along the way. We got to the base of one lookout and saw the road was pretty sketchy but decided to have a crack anyway. Half way up the hill we could feel the motorbike struggling and knew we weren’t going to make it so we quickly jumped off. Relieved that we didn’t fall or ruin the bike, we decided it would be best to find another lookout.
We also visited Sen Monorom and Chrey Thom Waterfalls which were both pretty however due to heavy rainfall the previous night, you could not swim in them.
As we decided to extend our stay, we did not have a lot of cash on us. Instead of paying big fees to get more money out, we decided to play a little game to see if we could live off 5USD a day. This included food, drinks, motorbike hire, fuel and any extra activities. With the motorbike hire being more expensive than usual, we thought we wouldn’t make it but luckily we did! We averaged 4.50USD by living off bananas for breakfast, nom pao (steamed pork buns) or pork rolls for lunch and nom pao or chicken and rice for dinner. For something sweet, we’d have num ansom chek which are bananas wrapped in coconut sticky rice. These logs of deliciousness are wrapped in banana leaves and heated over charcoals.
Now, with two days left on our visa, it’s back to the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh before heading across the border to Vietnam.