Author: Silke Gondolf

2019 North India

Ladakh: Leh, Matho, Chilling, Likir, Alchi, Lamayuru, Basgo, Rangdum, Padum, Zanskar, Darang Durung Glacier, Parkachik, Nun Kun Mountain Massif, Karsha, Kargil, Dzongkhul monastary, Stod Valley, Mune Gompa, Tsarap River, Zanskar River, Pangong Lake, Tso Moriri, Tso Kar.
Autumn in North India: most tourists have left Ladakh and Zanskar, the farmers and herders prepare for another long and probably harsh winter in the some of the highest Himalayan region on earth.

2017 Japan

Kyushu: Oita, Beppu, Saiki, Ume, Fujigawachi Valley, Hoto Island, Tsukumi, Usuki Buddha, Mt. Shiroyama, Kagoshima, Sakurajima, Fukuoka, Nagasaki. Honshu: Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, Kawaguchiko, Mt. Fuji, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka.
Japan by train, best thing ever.

The Highlanders of Ratanakiri – Cambodia

  The following are my on-location field notes from December 2015. I travelled with a Krung guide into the forest, he introduced me to the highlanders and translated all interviews. 66% of the people in the furthest northeast of Cambodia, called Ratanakiri, are indigenous people: the main tribes are Brao (Krung), Jarai, Tampun.   The “forest people”, also called “highlanders”, “tribal people”, or “minorities” are actually the majority of Ratanakiri, a very rich province. The Khmer Rouge wanted the highlanders to assimilate, they relocated many of them during their rampage years. The Khmer Rouge wanted the tribes to leave their backward system and begin regular field agriculture, to become rice farmers and contribute to society. The indigenous people were also forced to learn and speak Khmer. In the 80ies the local/tribal people moved to the roads and the “city people” moved to the highlands – to do logging, built plantations and do gold and precious stone mining. The land was given away as concessions to people and companies – for exploitation. The ethnic minorities were …

Gem Stone Miners in Cambodia

Once the forest is chopped off and sold, the land is used for heavy mono-culture farming by foreign and local investors. Ratanakiri translates into “the Gem Mountain” – mining for semi-precious stones has been done here for more than 40 years.


My way to the gem stone miners of Cambodia brings me past honey sellers. The indigenous people from the Tampuan tribe come to the roads to sell their produce. Honey is a treasure and these people are a treasure as well, but no one seems to care about their needs, property or knowledge. I am travelling in the northeast Ratanakiri province, an area where the so called “ethnic minorities” are actually the majority and where the living conditions are the poorest of the country. The different tribes are referred to as the highlanders, a general term for the indigenous people who live in this mountainous region.     The highlanders forests, once partially sacred and a trusted source for their livelihood, has been sold by the government and is still in the process of being sold out. The highlanders watch how roads are being built through their property, how electricity cables are mounted through their jungle, how foreigners and Khmer alike take away their land and trees; fields with their precious mountain rice and sesame, spirit mountains and rivers (dams …