A beautiful but little-visited part of Cambodia, Sen Monorom sits in the Mondulkiri Province, close to the Vietnamese border. While the city is somewhat underwhelming, Sen Monorom acts as the gateway to a whole range of wild adventures – from elephant trekking to gibbon spotting.
Known as the ‘Seregenti of Asia’, Mondulkiri Protected Forest is one of the last great wild areas on the continent. However, illegal logging and large-scale infrastructure projects are threatening the survival of the forest and the animals that call it home. To see it at its best, get here quickly and show officials that travellers love what Mondulkiri is right now, not what it might become.
Keep reading for all the top things to see and do in Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri, and how to avoid missing out on the best of the best!
Sen Monorom Map & Resources
Sen Monorom (Mondulkiri), Cambodia – Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri ☁️
Before the current roads were put in, it was only possible to visit Sen Monorom during a very small good weather window in the dry season. In the rainy season, the roads became impassable, meaning it could take you months to reach the city from Phnom Penh! However, since the introduction of the tarmac highway, it has never been easier to travel to this far-flung part of Cambodia.
The best time to visit Mondulkiri is during the dry season, which spans from November to February. Sen Monorom is located 733 metres above sea level, meaning that it benefits from a cooler climate than other areas in Cambodia. While it still gets very hot during the day (you’ll need suncream as it is very easy to burn at higher altitudes), the nights are much cooler.
January is the best time to see Mondulkiri’s waterfalls as the water is clear and is still flowing. During the wet season, they are impressively full but are also very muddy.
Good to Know! 🦟
Where to Stay in Sen Monorom, Mondulkiri 🏠
For convenience, most travellers opt to stay in Sen Monorom city centre. Here you will be within walking distance of a range of eateries and the most popular trips will pick you up from your accommodation or another central location.
Many of the more premium ecotourism accommodation offerings are located outside the city, in the surrounding hills. Don’t worry though, it is easy to grab a tuk tuk to get around (the Cambodian taxi apps don’t work here – yet!). Your accommodation will usually offer to arrange transport for you if they are located outside the centre.
Top Accommodation in Sen Monorom
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This glamping-style eco-resort is a great place for those wanting to be immersed in a more rural corner of Mondulkiri while still staying in luxury. The canvas geodesic domes boast some of the best scenery out there and come with all the mod cons. ATVs are available to rent on site and Bousra Waterfall is just a short walk away.
Offering bungalows and glamping-style tents, Mondulkiri Pizza Bungalows are the ideal choice for couples looking to relax in comfortable luxury. Affiliated with the best pizza restaurant in town, the bungalows are just a stone’s throw from delicious Italian cuisine! The owners are some of the best hosts you’ll find – all in all, a great base in Mondulkiri.
“We stayed at Mondulkiri Pizza Bungalows for a week. It’s a family-run business with incredibly friendly and accommodating hosts who helped us with motorcycle rental and onward travel. Our bungalow was one of the nicest places we stayed in our two months of travelling in Cambodia!”Sheree, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker
A great option just a short walk from the centre of the city, Manel Guesthouse offers clean and comfortable accommodation for those on a budget. The owner can speak English well (not always a given in this part of Cambodia) and can also offer advice about trekking and onward travel, including to Laos and Vietnam.
Situated along the main road and within earshot of the central market, Avocado Guesthouse is a great value-for-money option offering private rooms. The water is hot and the AC works, making for a comfortable and central stay in Sen Monorom. There is also a well-rated restaurant on site.
If novel resort-style accommodation is what you’re after while you’re staying in Mondulkiri, look no further than Pidoma Resort. Situated in a quiet location outside the city, the accommodation benefits from incredible views. Lodgings come in the form of private suites and rooms, the latter of which are located in glamping-style cylinders.
Things to Do in Sen Monorom, Cambodia 🐘
1. Enjoy an Ethical Elephant Encounter
There are a range of elephant projects in Mondulkiri. Arguably the best is the Elephant Valley Project, established in 2006, which offers hands-off experiences for visitors. The project supports ten elephants, allowing them to roam in 1,500 hectares of protected forest.
EVP prides itself on letting elephants be elephants and doesn’t allow tourists to ride, bathe or feed them. Instead, visitors track the movement of the elephants on guided treks and enjoy seeing them in their natural environment. The centre is closed on Saturdays to allow elephants time to roam free without observers.
As well as caring for its elephants, EVP also supports the local indigenous Bunong community through job opportunities, education and healthcare provision. They are working hard to protect the forest both through plant reforestation projects and investment in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Elephant Valley Project offers half-day, full-day and overnight visits. The full-day tours can be split in a variety of ways to include volunteering, trekking or even more elephants!
“After hearing about EVP around five years ago, I was super keen to visit. I love the ethos of the project and that it offers an ethical experience. I opted for the full-day Ele Lover tour which was incredible. I have visited other elephant sanctuaries in the past but after visiting EVP, I truly believe hands-off experiences are the way to go – seeing elephants in their natural habitat is truly a breathtaking experience.”Sheree, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker
2. Hit the Open Road
Mondulkiri is best explored on a motorbike. Its wide and winding roads give way to spectacular rural scenery, different to other places in Cambodia. The roads are generally in good condition with the vast majority of them being tarmacked.
There is not much traffic which makes riding a really enjoyable experience. Just remember the main rules of driving on Cambodian roads, if it is bigger, louder or faster than you, it has the right of way! Oh, and wear a helmet. It’s now illegal to ride without one and you could get fined by the police (or crack your skull).
3. Jungle Trekking with the Bunong Community
Jungle trekking is one of the most popular activities in Mondulkiri. Treks are pretty intense (most take all day and can cover up to 18 km) and visit a variety of waterfalls along the way. There is always the possibility of spotting wildlife in the trees so make sure you keep your eyes peeled!
As you’d expect from the jungle, mosquitoes are a sad inevitability in this kind of environment. To avoid getting bitten, cover up and use a strong repellent. As well as malaria, it is also possible to contract dengue in Mondulkiri.
Many of the elephant projects in the area offer trekking with the opportunity to stay with the Bunong community in a homestay overnight. This is a great way to learn about the local indigenous people and try their cuisine!
4. Visit Bousra Waterfall (and Others)
The most popular attraction in the area that it is possible to DIY, Bousra Waterfall is located just over 40 km outside Sen Monorom. The easiest way to get there is via motorbike which you can hire from your accommodation. It is also possible to rent a tuk tuk to take you to a range of attractions around the area, this will cost approx. $30USD per day.
There is an entrance fee for foreigners which is approx. 5000 riel (approx. $2.50USD). While Mondulkiri is still an unusual travel destination for international visitors, it is very popular with locals. The weekends are the busiest times when residents of Phnom Penh head there for a staycation. To avoid the crowds, visit during the week.
If you don’t want to make the journey out to Bousra, there are plenty of other waterfalls to choose from. Leng Ong and Leng Khin Waterfalls are cute spots, however, this entire area has been marked for airport development so won’t be here much longer. Bear in mind that the Google Maps directions are wrong, you need to turn right one road later, just before the wooden coffee shop and opposite the petrol station.
In case that isn’t enough waterfalls for you, there is also Leng Kry, Orimis, Romena and Leng Ret. If you are going jungle trekking, you may be taken to some of these en route.
5. Take in the Views
There are a few viewpoints close to Sen Monorom. Sen Monorom Viewpoint (also known as Phnom DoKramom) is a great one easily accessible from the city centre. There is also the opportunity to spot monkeys in the trees above. Remember to look up – you never know what you might see!
The Sea Forest is also popular and showcases views over an ocean of green trees. Sadly, this is less impressive than it has been in previous years due to the sheer amount of logging going on in the area.
Logging in Sen Monorom 🪵
6. Sample Some Mondulkiri Coffee
Mondulkiri coffee is the most famous joe in the whole of Cambodia. It is known for its rich, bold flavour, with chocolatey notes. While there are no farms currently offering organised coffee tours to visitors (that we know of), we’re sure this will be something to look out for in the future.
Pida Coffee Farm Lodge is the place to go if you want to walk around and see the coffee fields. They also grow passionfruit, jackfruit and avocado. Sample it here or head to one of the many cafés in Cambodia that sell the drink.
7. Go Gibbon-Spotting
Jahoo is a gibbon conservation project which leads primate spotting tours in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary (KSWS). It’s not for the budget-conscious – these tours are expensive – but well worth the splurge if you’re looking for an unforgettable wildlife experience.
Offering full-day and overnight packages, tours allow visitors to join local Bunong guides to track and observe wild gibbons. Their work is supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society and World Hope International.
While there are cheaper alternatives which offer gibbon spotting, they are not well-reviewed online and unless you trek with experts, you are unlikely to see gibbons. We would always urge travellers to err on the side of caution when booking wildlife experiences and do their research before committing to a company.
Good to Know! 🐵
8. Stand on the Moon at Namlear Mountain
Okay, so Namlear Mountain isn’t actually the gateway to the moon. However, it is an otherworldly landscape that you should definitely seek out while you’re in the area. Also known as Roum El Stone Field, Namlear is a bit of a mission to reach but well worth the journey. The best way to get here is by renting a bike, however, some accommodation options offer jeep tours.
Climb to the top using the rope handrail and admire the sweeping vistas across Mondulkiri province and out to Vietnam. While this spot is popular with local tourists, it is not yet well known among foreign visitors. Entrance costs around $1USD per person (foreigners) and there is also a parking fee (approx. $0.50 for motorbikes). It’s good to combine a visit here with Bousra Falls.
9. Volunteer at a Local School
For a really local experience, why not volunteer at the school in Potang Village? They are always looking for volunteers to teach English and French, as well as helping to create textbooks. This is a great way to learn more about the community and help local children with their education. Teaching takes place six days a week for two hours a day. Volunteers are requested to buy their own food, however, accommodation is free.
Food and Drink in Sen Monorom 🍲
Cocktail Bus: This double-decker bus cum cocktail bar is permanently based along the main road close to the water buffalo roundabout.
The Hangout: Popular with both locals and travellers, The Hangout is a good place to grab breakfast or dinner. Offering a range of Khmer and Western dishes, the chicken parmi comes highly recommended! There is also a pool table here.
Pheas Treats: Owned by a Cambodian-British couple, Phea and Mitch, this small eatery is a must-try. Offering a selection of Khmer and Western dishes, all are delicious. You’ll come for the food but stay for the conversation. If you’re looking for recommendations on things to do in the local area, chat with these guys.
“I’m not much of a sweet person generally but the chocolate cake on offer here was the best I’ve tried, not just in Southeast Asia but in my entire life! Don’t miss it!”Sheree, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker
Mondulkiri Pizza: If you’re craving pizza, this is the best place in town. Pizzas can be enjoyed inside the restaurant or out on the balcony overlooking the accommodation. Prices are reasonable and you may even be served up a fruit platter for dessert.
Cambo Catch: A popular watering hole with locals and expats. It’s located opposite the Hangout and is known for its tasty cocktails.
Bamboo Café: This small cafés is well worth a visit if you are staying in Sen Monorom. The owner is incredibly welcoming and the food is delicious! Prices are decent and they offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. The fried tomato with tofu is a great option for veggies!
Getting Around Sen Monorom 🏍️
Sen Monorom is a small city by Cambodian standards. The city centre is easy to navigate on foot, however, there are big sections of road which are missing sidewalks – make sure to check for traffic before you step out onto the road. We do not advise walking around Sen Monorom at night because of the territorial strays (see below).
A Whole Lotta Doggy Trouble… 🐕
If you want to explore outside the city, the best way to do this is by motorcycle. These are available to rent from most accommodation options and cost approx. $10USD a day. The roads in and around Sen Monorom are generally good quality, however, smaller roads are likely to be unsealed which is more tricky to ride on.
If you don’t feel confident on a motorbike, you can also rent a tuk tuk to take you to many of the main attractions. The Cambodian taxi apps like PassApp are not available here so make sure you get a quote from your accommodation provider so you know roughly how much the journey should cost.
How to Get to Sen Monorom 🚐
The best way to get to Sen Monorom is to travel from Phnom Penh. The journey takes around six hours and can be arranged at many of the hostels and guesthouses in the city. Tickets are also available on 12go.asia and cost from $13-17USD.
It is also possible to travel from nearby Kratie to Sen Monorom via minibus. The three-hour journey is likely to cost from $6-10USD.
Where to Go Next:
Kratié: Famous for the rare Irrawaddy dolphins that call this stretch of the Mekong home, Kratie is another up-and-coming ecotourism destination just a three-hour drive from Sen Monorom. Keep an eye out for monkeys on the drive!
Phnom Penh: Cambodia’s capital might be a stopover destination for many travellers but it definitely deserves at least a couple of days of your itinerary! Watch the hornbills at Wat Phnom, sample ‘happy’ pizza or chill by the riverside.
Ho Chi Minh City: Vietnam’s most populous city is the most common destination for those entering the country from Cambodia. Get a greater understanding of the Vietnam War (or the American War as it is known locally) with a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels or the War Remnants Museum.
South East Asia Backpacker is a ‘travel diary for everyone’. This article has been written with the help of backpackers and local experts. We would like to thank…