Baby it’s Cold Outside… and Windy

We can’t really say it is cold, but it is cool and humid and my toes are cold (in flip-flops). Probably 55 degrees, medium humidity and windy right now (sustained 17 mph), but the weather today was glorious. Not too hot, not too chilly. There is some big “wind front” (caused by an ice storm?) coming down from China impacting all of Cambodia an Vietnam. It is mostly windy – constant, reminds me of the trade winds but cooler. Sucky for birding,

The Indochinese Barbet

The Asian Fairy-bluebird

but we did manage to see quite a few – probably 40 or so species (I’ll have to check my list). This is our first time birding in Asia so except for the Hoopo which is also found in Europe, all the birds are new to us, and some are quite beautiful.

A woman at the donut stop.

But to back up. We left Phnom Penh and took a half day mini van trip on the VIP bus.

Our final VIP bus. Luckily it was not full so we had some room to spread out a bit.

The transport packs in whatever they can.

3 stops for pickup and changing buses, (before leaving Phnom Penh), a donut stop for the driver, a pee stop, a lunch stop and a brief shopping stop for one of the passengers and we were in Mondulkiri Provence in the southeastern corner of Cambodia bordering Vietnam.

The kids liked having their pics taken with the duca (native cows) in the roundabout in town.

Downtown Sen Monorom – our destination. Quite bustling but not so full of tourists.

Within 15 km of Vietnam. The goal was to do some birding and start to learn the birds of SE Asia with a guide, to see the Douc monkeys both black and silver which are both threatened or endangered; check; and to see Gibbons.

The silver douc. Very cool monkeys.

The Gibbons were hiding because of the wind…. and you may or may not see them anyway. We did not. A night in our least expensive accommodation, $15/night with an outside shower (heated); to the Jahoo Gibbon Lodge which is a tent on a bamboo platform in a Banong village with bird and wildlife watching on both sides. No heat and the tent was flapping in the wind while we attempted to sleep on our futons on pallets. Not the best night and not much cover. Just enough most of the time. Back to our $15 per night lodge for 2 more nights. No heat here, but the outdoor heated shower was really nice… when the wind was not blowing!

Our guide Ladong and the local Bunong guide.

Some pretty fungus in the forest.

A cute centipede in the forest.

Snuggled in bed writing this. We tend to go to bed with the sun out here.

Language. We were pretty good at getting our hello and thank you down in Laos, but have struggled here. It makes all the difference in communication and brightens folks faces. So, finally after not getting a handle on it and getting mixed messages on the right words, we recorded the phrases with Ladong our guide at Jahoo. Now we can practice and hear it. Tomorrow, we are getting our phrases down!

The illegal wood cutters in the forest. It is a fine line of allowing them to cut to survive and stopping it. As you can imagine, this riding is dangerous as the bikes are very unstable and there are lots of crashes. Selling wood is the only way these families have of surviving.

I really need to tell you about our long chat with Mr. Nat the Banong man who runs Jahoo, but I’m too pooped to do so. He speaks Banong, an oral language only, Khmer (the language of Cambodia) and English. We had a log chat about the difficulties of keeping the tradition of a mountain farming people while trying to preserve their land and provide prosperity in a developing country. Very reminiscent of the Native Americans of the US trying to preserve their ways in the US with the added twist of a dictatorship. Not an easy path forward and limited support and help from the Government.

Hello from Cambodia!

Next morning:

We are off to play with the elephants. We get to walk with them, swim with them and give them a bath,. Hum, ought to be an interesting experience. It seems many work elephants are now getting retirement places were the get to try and live out their lives as …. we elephants would…. except for the tourists that come to bath and swim with them. But, at least no more riding and work.

And, we now see to have hello, thank you and yes/no down. The smiles are coming! Yeah!