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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

The thing I wanted to to more than anything else in se Asia was to ride an elephant through the jungle. I’m not sure why, but I REALLY wanted this to happen. I did my homework and discovered that Mondulkiri, a remote province in eastern Cambodia near the Vietnam border, is among the best places in the world for elephant trekking. The trip from Siem Reap to Mondulkiri took 12 hours, 4 of which were spent in a 14 passenger van that had 17 people plus baggage. As I was getting off the bus in Mondulkiri, I met 4 other travelers who were also headed to the place I would be staying, The Nature Lodge. Rathana, the owner’s nephew and a really cool guy, picked us up at the bus stop and took us to the lodge. Lonely Planet recommended staying there and with good reason; the place was perfect. It was rustic, green in every sense of the word, family run and fantastic. On our second full day there, three of us went on a 2 day/1 night elephant trek. My expectations could not have been higher and to say they were exceeded would be an understatement. The elephants were amazing and they were not even the best part of the trek. Our mahouts (elephant jockeys) were Phnong, an ethnic minority group in Mondulkiri. There was a woman in her 40s, a guy about my age, a girl that was between 15 and 25, and a boy that was 10 or 12.  They spoke no English, but did not need to. Our English speaking guide, Dol, spoke very little English and was quite a character. Dol prepared all of our food from scratch and it was delicious. We even got to eat wild mushrooms that the mahouts harvested along the trek. Our camp site was by a river and small waterfall. We slept in hammocks covered with mosquito nets. Tarps were hung over the hammocks, but no rain fell despite it being rainy season. On the second day, we went to a larger waterfall and had lunch in a Phnong village. The people there were so happy to host us and really enjoyed having their pictures taken. There was not a single letdown during the trek; everything was perfect. In total, I spent 4 days and 4 nights in Mondulkiri. I count them among the best of my life.

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