Delightful Provincial Cambodia 8 – Mondulkiri Boo Sra
Boo Sra waterfall, about 37 kilometers from Mondulkiri's capital village, is famous throughout Cambodia. Once in Mondulkiri, visiting Boo Sra is a must if you travel with a Khmer partner.
— BOO SRA WATERFALL —
Nobody can tell us if this waterfall has food stalls and "roongs" – picnic pavilions – for rent. To play it safe, we buy everything on Sen Monorom's muddy open-air market. Our provisions include a large straw mat for one USD. This sounds cheap to me, although Norah explains: "This mat is only 25 cents or so in Phnom Penh, but they have to bring it here from Phnom Penh by car."
Again, Matt Jacobson's "Adventure Cambodia" has useful directions to the fall, but still at some turn-offs Norah has to interview the villagers about the right way. For about 97 percent of the way, we sail on a smooth dirt road.
The other three percent are sheer horror. At one point our pickup jeep gets stuck in mud for 30 minutes – I was not sure that we ever get out of there. To check the situation, I walk out, choose my steps of course most carefully – and land 30 centimeters deep in black mud anyway. The road also offers a few water-filled mud holes where it's not clear how deep they might be.
Anyway, Boo Sra waterfall is a real beauty, even at the peak of the dry season. Over a broad black cliff, the water hammers down ten meters deep. It passes a few slopes and pools, then takes another 25-meters-plunge. All that surrounded by thick forest.
Right at the fall, you can rent exactly one picnic pavilion. It's between the two tiers of the fall and close to the swimming opportunities there. We explore, then we lie down in the pavilion, unpack the goodies from Sen Monorom market and take lunch with full view of the waterfall.
At around 3 p.m. the impressive scenery is already basked in warm afternoon light. A little later, I think, is a good time to take some pictures. Just when I fish for the camera, the renting family approaches us: They will leave the scenery now, because the area has wild elephants who like to visit the waterfall in the evenings. Just recently one elder family member had been killed by an elephant: the uncle was strangled with the trunk, thrown through the air and trampled to death.
Hearing this, my plan for a photo excursion suddenly wanes. It doesn't come back when Norah adds: "From TV I know, forest elephants [wild elephants] are never friendly; they want to kill people. In Pol Pot time, when we brought fruit and wood from the forest, Papa told us to stay clear of any big waters in the evening" – elephants and other dangerous beasts like to convene there for a sundowner.
We walk back to the parking lot with the souvenir stalls. People there confirm the elephant story including the casualty. They know of four different pachyderms roaming the forest. They destroyed some stalls too. But the people also say, in Norah's translation: "Elephants never come before 6 p.m. If there are cars or motorcycles around, elephants will not come."
It's 3.30 pm now. It's a beautiful area in beautiful, clear afternoon light, and I still wanted to walk down the trail to the lower end of the lower fall.
We quickly drive back to town.
— THE DIESEL DEAL —
When we had parked the jeep near the market in the morning, a diesel shop owner had approached us: She promised to sell Diesel for just 2500 riels (about 61 US cents); everywhere else in town it's 2600 or 2700. In Phnom Penh Diesel even goes for 2900. Norah believes, the proximity to Vietnam makes Diesel a bit cheaper in Mondulkiri. Actually, in Kep province, also near Vietnam, but on the coast, you get Diesel for a flat 2000 riels.
Anyway, now we drive to the Diesel shop and order the stuff for 2500 riels. Of course the liquid doesn't come from petrol pumps, but from canisters. Norah suggests: "Let's buy 30 liters. They keep Diesel in 30-liter-canisters anyway, so we can easily control the amount we get."
An elderly lady stems the 30-liters-canister up to our tank opening. The price had been quoted in riels, but we pay dollars. The young cashier calculates as usual 1 USD = 4000 riels, a handy equation. Then the owneress in her daytime pyjama rushes by and calcutes again for us, now with the official moneychanger rate of 1 USD = 4080 riels – 40 cents advantage for us. Of course we also get a pack of cheap Vietnamese sweets.
— THE SWEETS —
"What do we do with the sweets from the diesel shop", I ask Norah as we roll on. "I get a toothache when I only see the pack." – "Oh, stop the car for a moment", she suggests.
The roadside just has a group of schoolboys in uniform. "Have some sweets", says Norah and hands down the pack. Never in my life will I forget the look of disbelief, then pure joy and happiness in the faces of these 10-year-olds.
"Come all and join us to share some sweets", screams one youngster, according to Norah's translation. In the rear mirror, I see a group of boys squatting in a circle, heads together, like jaguars around their prey.
Sorry, same old story, too busy to make any silly comments today.