Chunchiet Cemeteries

There are many chunchiet cemeteries scattered throughout the forests of Ratanakiri. Kochon is a one-hour boat trip ride east of Voen Sai and has an impressive Tompuon cemetery in the forest beyond the village. Family groups are buried side by side in the forest and there are effigies of the deceased. When a lengthy period of mournings is complete, villagers hold a big celebration and add two carved wooden likenesses of elephant tusks to the structures. Some of these tombs date back many years and have been abandoned to the jungle. Newer tombs of wealthy individuals have been cast in concrete and show some gaudy influences from China. Sadly some unscrupulous art collectors and amateur anthropologists from Europe have reportedly been buying up the old effigies from poor villagers, something tantamount to cultural rape. Remember that this is a sacred site for local Tompuon people – touching nothing and act respectfully. The boat trip to Kachon, including a jaunt to the Chinese and Lao villages opposite Voen Sai, costs around US$ 10 . It is also possible to get to Kachon by road when you head south out of Voen Sai and turn left at the first major junction. To get to the cemetery, walk through the health center located at the riverbank and turn right. The cemetery is just a couple of hundred meters from the village.

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