Trekking the Cambodian Jungle and visiting the Bunong Tribe
Getting There: Your tour guide will organise transport a few KM’s outside of Sen Monorom to where the Bunong tribe are located
Costs: A one night, one day tribal experience costs in the region of $50-70 per person which includes a night in a homestay, we did a one day experience which we booked directly with a local guide which was $15 per person
Additional Information: It’s incredibly hot in the Jungle so bring at least 2 liters of water and even if it is cool in the morning wear as little clothing as possible (while being respectful of the tribe)
On a cold morning at 5.30am we awoke to our alarms signifying the start of our 20KM trekking experience through the Mondulkiri jungle. The night before our trek we’d walked around town looking at all the options of being able to go and visit the Bunong tribe while trekking through the jungle. The prices we were quoted ranged from $50-70 for one day and one night, I personally thought that was extreme.
Feeling dejected myself and the two Dutch girls I was travelling with went to the only bar we could find Chilli on the Rocks. As luck would have it the barman Rathana, a local Cambodian jungle guide who had been trekking through the jungle since the age of 14, had the day off tomorrow so we asked him if he’d take us trekking for the day. After a couple of drinks he agreed and there we had it for a third of the price we had ourselves a private guide, with lunch included and a tour around the Bunong tribe followed by a mammoth trek through the jungle stopping at various waterfalls along the way.
So we jumped in a Tuk Tuk as the sun was rising and head off to start the day wandering around the Bunong village. These are an interesting people who are said to have lived in the Mondulkiri province for 2000 years. Their traditional ways of living at one with nature are still evident, as is the transition into modern living with satellite dishes dotted around the village! We walked around the village seeing some of the traditional huts that some still live in and even observing them building a new house which was being built using heavy machinery and appeared to have a fair amount of mod cons!
After experiencing some of the village life it was off on the trek. We had a feeling it was going to be hot but we didn’t know how hot until we got into the dense jungle. By this point it was 10am, not even the hottest part of the day, the humidity was extreme and navigating the dense jungle wasn’t easy in that level of heat. It was incredible though! Rathana was an amazing guide and we’d stop at various points to looks at local flora and fauna, learning about their uses within the tribes.
There were well known trees and plants that we’d stop at, nibbling on cashew nut flowers and stopping at a mango tree to take on some well needed sugar from a quickly picked mango.
After about 2 hours and maybe 6KM we stopped at a waterfall for lunch. All of us immediately dived in and bathed in the ice cool waters to cool off, before munching down on some much needed carbs of rice, local flatbread and a bit of beef for protein. An hour later and we were back on the trail navigating the dense forest once again.
We battled our way through the humid dense jungle learning more about the Khmer people from our guide and keeping an eye out for wild elephants. Rathana had told us that there is a fair chance to see wild elephants, plenty of times we saw the tracks through the jungle but alas no elephants. The scenery was incredible, despite it being as humid as it could be and sweat dripping off of us we were all in high spirits. I loved walking through the junglel, navigating our way through thick foliage keeping an eye out for weird, wonderful bugs that i’d never see back in England.
The dense jungle trekking lasted until about 4pm when we finally made it back, 20KM later and about 3 gallons of sweat and we were back where we started at the Bunong tribe for a well deserved beer at one of the local shops. We sat with Rathana, drinking a few ice cold beers while he translated some of what the local Bunong tribe were saying so we could converse with them. Soon enough it was time to head back and rest after an epic trek through the Mondulkiri Jungle.