Cambodia: Explore Mondulkiri for its romance in rolling hills

Mondulkiri is a special destination to visit in Cambodia. It is a very different place from the flat, steaming-hot capital city, Phnom Penh. The chock full of natural beauty, the thickly forested mountains, the powerful waterfalls, the lush green rolling hills, the Cambodian aboriginal community, the mild temperatures, the off-the-beaten-tourist trail, the variety of languages used – Khmer, hill tribe languages, Vietnamese, Laos and the tranquility of the place offer such a contrast when compared to Phnom Penh. I love it!

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

While traveling from the Penh to Mondulkiri, I couldn’t help but exclaimed, “Wow, it feels like we are traveling to the French countryside!” because of the manicured landscape and the quality of the road.

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Once there, we walked through the forest, ambled hills after hills and did a lot of sightseeing. While hiking, I imagined several scenes from the movie “The Hobbit” especially when Gandalf entered Hobbiton and when Bilbo jumped over the fence and said, “I’m going on an adventure!” Mondulkiri is very picturesque. Certainly, our adventure there was nothing less than spectacular and it was one of the most wonderful experience in Cambodia for us.

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Mondulkiri, Cambodia

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • The town of Sen Monorom is the best base camp for travelers who want to explore the surrounding areas.
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Cambodia: Waterfall hopping in Ratanakiri

We fell in love with the natural beauty of the hidden treasures of Ratanakiri, which are off-the-beaten-track and unbeknownst to the tourist crowds. So, since Ratanakiri is home to stunning waterfalls we decided to do waterfall hopping.

Cha Ong Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Cha Ong Waterfall

We went there during the rainy season and we could only visit 4 waterfalls as some roads were not accessible – very slippery, very muddy. On our way to the falls, I felt like I was traveling back to the earliest beginning of the world when the big trees were kings. We saw a lot of plantations and some impenetrable forest. The air was cold, thick and sluggish, and there was no joy in the brilliance of the sun.

Ratanakiri

The water level of each waterfall was huge and strong, and the sound was impressive. The waterfalls were all gorgeous, refreshing, cool and each one is picture perfect.

If walking through dense jungle and lush green canopies is your idea of fun, then waterfall hopping in Ratanakiri should be on your Cambodia’s bucket list. So to help you on your next adventure, here’s our top 4 best and more accessible waterfalls in Ratanakiri for you to discover.

Ratanakiri

Ratanakiri

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall

It has 7 steps and it is located in a deep jungle surrounded by beautiful landscapes. The water flows throughout the year. On the way to the waterfall, you will see villages and mines. You can also visit the zircon gemstones mining company.

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Ou’Sean Lair Waterfall in Ratanakiri

Ka Chanh Waterfall

The waterfall is 12 meters high. One of the main attractions there is the suspension bridge right before the waterfall – great photo on the hanging bridge. There were also traditional houses in the area for you to explore. Once there, we got some amazing pictures and truly enjoyed the experience. For us it is the most charming waterfall.

Ka Chanh Waterfall

Ka Chanh Waterfall

Ka Chanh Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

It is about 10 meters high and it’s in an interesting geological formation which has resulted in a cave forming into the cliff that faces both sides of the water. The highlight there is the elephant ride on the top of the waterfall, and feeding and bathing the elephants.

Katieng Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

Katieng Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha ong waterfall is amazing and our favorite because you can go behind and explore a bit – there’s like a huge cave behind the waterfall. It is surrounded by such splendid nature and it is very jungle like.

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cha Ong Waterfall

Cambodia: Sightseeing Tour in Mondulkiri

The morning had arrived for the start of another countryside adventure in Mondulkiri, an eastern province and most pristine province in Cambodia. It is known as the “Wild East of the country” with its high hills, deep valleys, wild jungles, amazing waterfalls, off-roading and elephant’s adventure.

Amazing Mondulkiri

Dreamy

After enjoying a leisurely tasty breakfast, we hopped into our tuktuk to begin our whole day sightseeing tour. Our first stop was at the Bunong (Pnong) Village – the Bunong people is the largest aboriginal Cambodian ethnic group, who are believed to have been living in Mondulkiri area for about 2,000 years. Once there, we learned their culture, custom, tradition and way of life. I have learned that Bunong people have a strong link with their environment and they follow animism – they believe that everything (animals, plants, hills, mountains, stones, jars, etc) has a spirit.

Behind me is a house of the Bunong people where 7 families live.

Wooden jars made by Bunong people

We drove further for about 45 minutes to visit Bou Sra Waterfall, the largest waterfall in Mondulkiri. It is surrounded by beautiful, dense tropical forests, rich with diverse wildlife. It has 3 layers: The first layer is 12 meters high and 15 meters wide. The second layer is 20 meters high and 20 meters wide, and the third stage couldn’t be reached because it is surrounded by dense thicket. We spent about 20 minutes wandering around the 1st layer of waterfall. Standing nearby for the photograph, we could feel the fresh spray coming from the water crashing down. While meandering around, we spotted a kaleidoscope of charming butterflies swopping by. However, at that time the bridge leading to the 2nd layer of the waterfall was broken, hence we weren’t able to see it. Then, we hiked up to the mountain to see the main source of the waterfall then we descended back to our tuktuk. It seems that it’s the grandest waterfall we’ve seen throughout the area.

The first layer of Bou Sra Waterfall.

The second layer of Bou Sra Waterfall.

From the top of Bou Sra Waterfall

From the top of Bou Sra Waterfall

Beautiful butterflies around the waterfall area

The forest surrounding the waterfall.

The Eco-park surrounding the waterfall

Overlooking the main source of the waterfall

Next, we went to the “Sea Forest”. We reached the area at around 11.10 and spent about 30 minutes there. We enjoyed the splendid view and fresh air. We saw many hills and more hills carpeted with green as far as our eyes could see. I like the place, it’s wonderful and it’s good for the soul!

The “Sea Forest”

pristine and peaceful

Life is beautiful!

From there, our guide drove us to the coffee plantation, one of the places we were looking forward to visit in this trip since we both love coffee, like Angkor coffee which is locally produced. Before roaming around, we had coffee and coca-cola for Pete while resting for a while as it was noon-time. The plantation is huge, though and it seems it is adapting polyculture or mixed cropping as different crops such as coffee, avocado, durian, rambutan, etc. were growing in the same field. We tried a fresh coffee bean – it tasted good and juicy.

Coffee plant

Have you seen a Durian tree before?

It was already 1.30pm, then we proceeded to the “Sunset Hill” and Phnom Doh Krokom Pagoda. This place is popular for its great sunsets and for its incredible view of the town and the surrounding hills covered with thick trees. The atmosphere was nice and we surely enjoyed the views!

at The “Sunset Hill”

at The “Sunset Hill”

Before heading back to our hotel, we stopped in a shop near a gas station for some quick shopping. It was around 3PM and we were famished so we quickly grabbed some potatoes and shrimp crisps. We got back to our hotel just before a mighty tropical storm hit the town, so lucky!

Reading our favorite book on a chilly rainy night, was a perfect end to a great day in Mondulkiri.

 

 

Cambodia: Great time in Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

For this year’s summer break, we decided not to travel outside the country but to explore the Northern provinces in Cambodia – Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri, for two reasons:

  • First, this year (2018) marks our 10th year here in Cambodia and we hadn’t been there yet.
  • Second, between Disneyland and jungle trekking, hubby and son were more excited about the latter option.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

We stayed in Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel for a couple of days, located in Banlung amidst tropical greenery. It’s about 20 minutes (depending on the condition of the roads) by a 4×4 off-road vehicle from the city centre. It might be a little far from the city, but that is what makes this place so special – in the middle of the beautiful wild nature, very calm environment and friendly and helpful staff, for a relaxed holiday.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

We went there last week (still low season; rainy season); luckily, we’ve got the entire resort just all for ourselves. It was very nice and very quiet.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The way to the hotel was quite difficult but it could be said to be an adventure. During the rainy season (May to November), sometimes the roads are not passable as it’s very slippery and very muddy. During the dry season (December to April) the road is no problem.

The way to the paradise

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

During our stay, we were given a room with a pool and mountain-view. Our room was cozy and clean. What I liked the most with our room was the balcony, because of the serene view it offered of the surrounding mountains combined with the sounds of the not-so-far-away jungle.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

This paradise resort is close to the major attractions of the town such as lake, waterfalls, gem-mining (zircon gemstone), and local village. It also offers reasonable prices for the tour to these places.

Yeak Loam Lake, a volcanic crater lake

Waterfalls in Ratanakiri

Waterfalls in Ratanakiri

Every day, after I woke in the morning, I walked around the vicinity and saw all the beauty around. It’s very refreshing! After the family awoke, we had breakfast in the restaurant then we swam in the pool with a view. Later, we started whatever activity we wanted to do for that day.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The staff was nice and polite. They helped us with our tours and were always caring. The owner was amazing – friendly and positive. She arranged everything for us – the things we needed and the things we wanted. They ensured that we were happy throughout our stay. They definitely did all their best to help us and made us feel comfortable and at home. I think that’s one thing what made the atmosphere of this place so welcoming and lovely.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The food was delicious and I think it has the best cuisine in Ratanakiri Province. They serve both local and western foods. Tea and coffee was free all day!

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

The setting is real paradise – with breathtaking view and positive atmosphere around. After a couple of days, we felt at home; and we were quite sad to leave and wished we could have stayed longer. Throughout our stay, everything we wanted in a holiday was there. Indeed, it was a perfect peaceful getaway.

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Ratanakiri Paradise Hotel

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • Upon arrival, the hotel offers free pick up from the bus station to the hotel. If you wish to go to the city center, it offers transfer for $3 (one way) since it is quite far away from the town.
  • There was no hot water as it’s not connected to the power supply system, but we managed it.
  • The internet was very slow – or worse – but that didn’t matter at all to us, for who can ask for a good hotel in the jungle, in the mountains, in a far-away-province in Cambodia and then expect perfect wifi?
  • There are organic pepper and Zircon stones available (for sale with a reasonable price) in the hotel. If you wish to get some souvenirs.

Cambodia: 4×4 off-road adventure in Ratanakiri

Before we set off on our trip in Ratanakiri, we didn’t really plan for off-road rides. However, while we were there, we thought that off-roading was such a great way to tour especially in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri as it really takes you to those hidden beautiful spots, and since we have this attitude of “hell yeah, let’s go!” so, off we went.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

So, after our off-road adventure in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy trails, I thought, I would share our beautiful experience and some of the things I learnt.

Our off-road ride was actually both an awesome and a scary adventure, especially when our car

  • was tilted 30 degrees and still running through muddy roads,
  • was moving sideways,
  • was swaying while gliding through the mud,
  • was a few centimeters away from big deep holes,
  • when our car got stuck in the mud.

It was indeed a bit of an adventure and a great four wheel drive!

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

We went past plantations after plantations. We drove past hills and more hills. We went through the jungle. We visited different waterfalls and some far-flung villages.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

On the first day of our off-road rides, we didn’t get stuck. On the second day, after the heavy rains, we got stuck in the mud, but our driver was able to unstuck our car from mud after about 20 minutes. Then, we rested somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It was quite frustrating but at the same time fun.

Off-roading. Relaxing in the middle of nowhere after we got stuck in the mud.

The second time we got stuck, it took so long for our driver to unstuck our car and the brake was broken, so we had to walk and took the car at the bottom of the hill.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

Three things I’ve learnt about this trip are:

  • Thoroughly check the car before going off-roading.
  • Drive slowly and carefully to avoid skidding on a muddy road.
  • Stay calm and focused. Don’t panic especially when you get stuck in the mud.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

Off-roading in Ratanakiri’s mountains on muddy roads.

We love spending some time off the beaten tracks. We loved the adventure, and we loved the breathtaking scenery. Undeniably, it was the best and the most amazing off-roading experience we’ve ever had.

 

Cambodia: Discovering Street Art in Boeung Kak in Phnom Penh

Boeung Kak Lake, also known as Lakeside in Phnom Penh, was a backpacker’s haven. We went there once in July 2010, spent a couple of minutes – chillin’ in one of the bars in front of the lake while enjoying the lake breeze. At that time we hadn’t heard about the street art there until very recently.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

Since our son loves visual art, we decided to explore Street 93 in Boeung Kak so that he could see and experience how street art looks like.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

The Street 93 in Boeung Kak is a small, colorful alley. As we walked through it, we saw murals and paintings on the walls. A lot of the street art were in front of people’s home – some were even hiding behind the parked tuktuk or clothesline. I heard that some locals and tourists alike come and paint there to bring life back into the area.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

Once there, I noticed that Boeung Kak Lake’s vibe was different when compared in 2010 – it’s quite calmer and quieter now. After the lake was completely drained and filled in, some homes have been cleared out and hordes of gypsy travelers are no longer there. Likewise, while wandering around the area, we spotted small children playing in the streets, some locals cooking their food, etc.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

It was nice to see the street art, although it rained while we were there. I enjoyed the street art but not the place – it’s still kind of dodgy.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

I realized that street art is interesting, creative, unlimited, vibrant, eye-catching and diverse. I think the murals and the paintings in the street remind people to feel alive and make them happy. It also inspires, motivates, allows people think, and makes peoples’ ordinary day a lot more interesting.

Street art in Phnom Penh

Street art in Phnom Penh

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • How to get there: Take Monivong Blvd. Turn left when you reach the traffic light near Phnom Penh Hotel. Keep going until you reach the mosque. Then turn left as soon as you see the bright murals on the walls it means you’re on the right street.
  • It’s free. There is no entrance fee to walk through the art district.

Cambodia: A visit to the chapel in Areyksat Village in Phnom Penh with friends

One of the things I enjoy doing very early in the morning at weekends while my two handsome boys are still enjoying their sleep is to visit the Chapel in Areyksat Village in Phnom Penh with friends. The village is about 15 minutes by ferry boat ride from the city.

While waiting the ferry boat to Areyksat Village

A cousin’s friend introduced me to this place very recently, and since then we have visited it several times – about 7 times. We took a ferry boat at 6AM. Once there, we stayed for about an hour before we headed back home.

Here are 4 reasons why I love to visit the chapel in Areyksat Village in the morning:

1.The chapel in Areyksat Village is small and beautiful. It is unique as it houses 2 statues of Mother Mary – the statue of Virgin Mary was found by a Cambodian Buddhist in the Mekong River on November 19, 2012 and the statue of Mary, Mother of Mekong River was found by a Khmer Muslim and 8 Vietnamese fishermen in the Mekong River on April 16, 2008. I love visiting this chapel early in the morning because it’s very quiet – a perfect place for praying and for meditation.

before heading back home

The main door of the chapel

The Statue of the Virgin Mary

The Statue of the Virgin Mary

with the Statue of the Virgin Mary

2. The ferry boat ride is fascinating especially since it crosses where the Tonle Sap River and Mekong River meet. The water is very calm and peaceful. As the morning breeze touches my face and the warm sun shines on me, it brings a feeling of excitement, joy, smile and a wonderful sense of expectation.

aboard the ferry boat

aboard the ferry boat

the ferry boats

The ferry boat

…to the village

on our way to the village

3. I like going there early in the morning because it’s fresh, not too hot and not too crowded. Plus, I could see the sun creeping over the horizon – magical.

…and every sunrise is always a marvel

…and every sunrise is always a marvel

…and every sunrise is always a marvel

…and every sunrise is always a marvel

…and every sunrise is always a marvel

…and every sunrise is always a marvel

…and every sunrise is always a marvel

4. The village seems interesting. It seems that it is popular for bicycling, as I noticed many cyclists while aboard the ferry boat. In addition, as the ferry approaches the wharf, I saw several small boat houses where some poor families live. Likewise, inside the chapel compound, I’ve noticed a wee school (with 2 or 3 classrooms) where they teach mostly small Vietnamese children since most of the families living nearby are Vietnamese.

can you see the boat houses?

The boat houses

A boat house

Certainly, the early morning trip to the chapel in Aryeksat is a beautiful start to the day – happy for the breath of fresh air, and grateful for all the goodness that surrounds me and for the beautiful family and friends I have. I love it! And next time I go there, I would bring my family and explore the other part of the village.

Little Lilly travel tips:

  • The ferry boat ride is very cheap – almost nothing as it only costs 500 Riels ($0.125) each way person.
  • The ferry boat is available from 5.30AM to 8.00PM daily.