Mondulkiri, Cambodia, part I: And the wind cries, “… (three ominous tones rising)…”

img_2177

Saen Monorom in Mondulkiri sometimes gets called the “Switzerland of Cambodia”, but in reality it’s more Andean than Alpine, high and dry, at least in this season, more central highland than Himalaya, more Boli­via t­han Burma, more high-plains-drifter than lost-kingdom-of-Shambhala…

In fact the platitudes of public relations hardly do it justice, simply because it’s sui generis, especially after the sui-genericide self-perpetrated by the misguided Marxists of the Vietnam war era, nowhere safe from its bomb-intensive percussions and repercussions…

img_2164

Downtown Saen Monorom

But that was then and this is now, and people seem to have forgotten the horrors of the previous generations (if Angelina Jolie will let them), lives taking on the familiar hum-drum of babies crying and old folks dying, and men and women doing whatever it is that becomes them…

I like it. I’ve been checking temps all over the region in my perennial search for temperate climes in intemperate times, and Mondulkiri seemed possible, if not guaranteed. I should have been checking wind speeds, too! It’s brisk! Thus making Saen Monorom Cambodia’s coolest option, complete with local tribal-types and lotsa’ nature…

Okay, so it’s not Sapa in North Vietnam, but still not bad (and winters are another consideration, of course, if we’re talking long-stays). And that’s the back-story here, that I’m looking for fall-back options to park my auto (i.e. non-self) for any indefinite periods of time in which I don’t have any place better to be, no small consideration…

Thailand used to be prime parking place for world-weary ‘digital nomads’ and the like, but the bloom has long since faded from that rose, so it’s nice to have back-up options, especially if that means cool temps, something which Thailand itself has little of. Vietnam does, but the bureaucracy seems daunting, and the Viet personality a bit, you know…

img_2173

Video Night in Mondulkiri

The best part for now is that not only do I have decent digs—real room, real furniture, reasonable price and natural light, but even a movie channel or two on TV! And the proprietress speaks absolutely no English! This is huge! You can’t request this with your online bookings; you have to live a charmed life, like me, I guess…

And that’s the only way you’ll ever get fluent in the lingo, just say goodbye to John, Paul, George and Ringo, in order to immerse yourself in the local culture and language. Then you have to leave the wannabe English-speakers behind, ouch, alas and alack, since they won’t help you go forward, only back…

Technically that shouldn’t be necessary, but this is the real world, and I’ve learned my lessons along the way. Not everybody acknowledges my Khmer-speak, even when they understand it, and that’s because they don’t want to—simple, if not pure. I think that racial facial practice of profiling is probably much worse in Thailand, but I could be wrong. Don’t even ask about Vietnam. Though related linguistically to Khmer, they can be edgy and combative, even if Khmer and Tieng Viet both sound like a banjo with a string or two loose…

So the days consist of long walks on lonely roads and long talks with myself about the future and the past, anything but the present, which is best experienced in its immediacy, silent meditation still sitting, not the internal dialogues or historical dialectics that clutter consciousness like so many litter-plagued roadsides in Cambodia…

img_2169

Market in Mondulkiri

Wind howls constantly, and that’s the way I like it, reminding me that life is short, and can be nasty, and to appreciate every day as it comes—or not. That’s one of life’s little lessons, and I’m sure that there are many more, like the categorical imperative to break big bills every chance you get. You can never have enough change—change…

But something’s wrong. I’m forgetting something. I’m forgetting that one requirement for a semi-retirement quasi-confinement locale for a late-life layover is proximity to quality medical care. That was one reason I was first interested in Koh Kong, Cambodia—proximity to Thailand, and their health-care system. I even rehearsed a mock evacuation scenario with a friend who’s also considering retiring in Cambodia. And now I have a serious problem—kidney-stone complications. It’s happening again. This is not a test…

(to be continued)

Advertisements