April 18, 2010

Dirty Dancing 3: Mondulkiri

After the foot trek and being rocked by Randy, we took Wednesday off as a reading day. Happy to read, write and stare at the big sky views, I savored the day to rest my weary body. That evening, Cambodia struck back. The staff at Nature lodge brought in big speakers to have a small party, but before anything could get off the ground, the electricity cut. There we were, in the restaurant, in the dark, wondering what to do next.

Smartly, we went to bed, but not without first trying out a shower in the pitch black. I had a tiny flashlight that seemed to make everything scarier, so I gave up on it.

The fourth day, ready for more adventure, we walked into town with some very adventurous volunteers who planned to rent motorbikes and ride to a nearby coffee plantation. How could I say no?

Nervous, Francine and I saddled up on Pat's moto (he's the only person in Mondulkiri bigger than I am, so I felt safer on his bike). Once we got going, it was a fun ride to the plantation. Covered in red dirt, we ordered iced coffees and sat in the shade, surrounded by coffee trees. It was wonderful to sit there and chat while a familiar breeze whipped the dust up the road.

By some miracle, we didn't die on the way back to the Nature Lodge, though when we all fell off the bike, I did see a portion of my life flash by. Unscathed minus a few engine burns, we washed up for dinner and a party.

Nature Lodge co-owner turned DJ, Mr. Sokha, put on the electronica early to make up for the previous night's power cuts. Beer was flowing (buy 2 get one free), and guests were out on the dance floor. Sokha challenged Francine and I to bar dance for a free beer, and we didn't disappoint. I must say it was a bit ironic to come all the way to rural Cambodia to dance on a bar during Khmer New Year, but the atmosphere was perfect. The celebration continued until late, with Khmer staff and western guests mingling, dancing, and bringing in the new year.

With sore feet and a need for one last adventure, Francine and I headed into town for our last day in Mondulkiri. We found the meat we had been missing in our meals at a small Khmer restaurant (two plates of pork curries, please!). Our walk continued through town for an iced coffee and up the hill to the Pagoda. That pagoda is one of the coolest I've seen. Besides the awesome views from the hill, the vibrant paintings inside the pagoda were worth the walk. After the temple, we tried a shortcut that backfired wonderfully into a massive exploration of the town in full sun. I could sum up Mondulkiri in a few visualizations: my dirty red-orange shoes, some blisters, delicious pancakes, and giant skies. I can't remember the last time I did so much walking in such a beautiful place.