If you haven't visited the Sesan River in Ratanakiri, then one of the reasons for making the trip is to visit the chunchiet cemetery in the Tampoun village of Kachon Leu, about an hour's boat-ride from Voen Sai. There are about 100 graves there and the wooden and stone carvings in front of each grave is to represent the deceased when they were alive. Some are very colourful, some are less so, but my visit was at the end of the wet season, so the undergrowth had obscured many of the graves and we could only visit about fifteen of them, the rest were in a thick tangle of bush. It costs $1 to visit the village and the cemetery, where the deceased are buried under a small wooden shelter after a 3-day mourning period. A buffalo is sacrificed and the wooden or cement statues are placed at the front of the shelter, and decorated according to the status of the deceased. The forest canopy and greenery of the cemetery site makes the visit a hot and sweaty one, but well worth the effort if you are in the vicinity of Voen Sai, some 40kms northwest of Ban Lung, the provincial capital.
An undecorated carved wooden effigy Some of the female wooden effigies are brightly painted, as are the accompanying shelters Another female wooden effigy next to an overgrown shelter