"Mondolkiri or Mondulkiri or Sen Monorem" Mondol Kiri by mke1963

Mondol Kiri Travel Guide: 28 reviews and 19 photos

380km to the north-east of Phnom Penh lie the grassy uplands and the monsoon forests of Mondolkiri province, one of the least populated and most inaccessible areas of Cambodia. Its capital, Sen Monorem is a recent town, now acting as a market place for the entire province.

Sen Monorem exists now simply because of the long - 1.7km - airport runway along the top of the ridge. It's not a "stupid place to put a runway" as it was here first, the town grew up around it after 1979 when people returned from the Koh Nyaek area to the north where Pol Pot had collected most of the local population. The original settlements at what is now Sen Monorem is by the bottomof the hill in the area by the town's hospital. Originally, the road in from the south crossed the small river o the north of the current bridge, but an air strike bombed the old crossing and the road was rerouted to avoid the damage.

Today, Sen Monorem is a dusty market town, with all the local government offices scaered around the ridge and the two valleys either side. Also present in the town are a large number of NGOs, so the place is awash with foreigners and the cafes and bars all serve the backpacker staple of banana pancakes. These NGOs are working hard to improve education, health and government capacity in one of Camodia's most disadvantaged areas. Mention of the area in both the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet has brought a flurry of tourism investment in town but also along the road to the waterfalls at Bousra to the north-east; not all this investment is helping the local indigenous people as it is primarily funded by Khmer families and companies, often to the exclusion of the local Bunong people. These days, Sen Monorem is primarily a Khmer town, and the Bunong are becoming increasingly marginalised in the settlements at the edge of town and in their villages, many of which are reachable only on foot.

The guide books have, as ever, created a steady - and growing - stream of tourists making for the specified sights, then returning by taxi to Phnom Penh two days later. It's a pity because it's a long way to come to see a waterfall and ride an elephant. There is a lot more to see than just the waterfalls though, and Mondolkiri is a fabulous place for the adventurous to get away from it all, and wander on the plateaus, in the forests and by the many rivers in the area. The Bunong people, who are 85% of the population, live in settlements all around the area and there are four areas of significant biodiversity within easy reach of Sen Monorem. Both Snuol Wildlife Reserve and the Siema Biodiversity Conservation Area are passed on the way in, taking up much of the land between Snuol and the town of Ou Reang, with the Phnom Prech Wildlife Reserve north-west of Sen Monorem and the deeply mysterious and extensive Phnom Nam Lyr Wildlife Reserve on the Vietnamese border.

See also the near-by Bunong village of Dak Dam

  • Last visit to Mondol Kiri: Jan 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (25)

Comments (2)

  • Jan 29, 2007 at 12:35 AM

    Yes..for work. And still here.. :)

  • sugarpuff's Profile Photo
    Jan 28, 2007 at 5:20 PM

    Always nice to read about places with a twist to them.i.e. not just a shopping or beach paradise destination. Sounds like an interesting place. Did you go for work?


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