Sunday, 15 July 2018

Banlung - an off the beaten path gem.


If you’re in Cambodia and looking for a gorgeous, quaint, and relatively tourist- free location, have I got the place for you! Located in the Ratanakiri province in the northeastern part of the country, the capital of Banlung offers a welcome respite. There’s peace, a crater lake, and lovely sunsets.

Oh boy what sunsets! After chilling by the pool at the hostel I took in the sights from the bar. Later I took a walk in the small town (population 18k) to find something to eat for dinner but it was quite a challenge because English was not happening with menus strictly in Cambodian. I did my best by pointing to what others had on their plates and decided to let my eyes make the decision.


Gorgeous sunset.


The next day my travel mates and I decided to rent bikes for a sight-seeing adventure. It was a challenging ride with unpaved roads on dirt paths. We visited a Buddhist temple which revealed a great view from the top of the hill. From there, the spectacular Katieng Waterfall. It’s gorgeous as you experience the top of the flow with water flying down. You can also dip your feet in and it’s ideal for Instagram snaps.
Right before our adventure began.
At the temple grounds.

The view from the temple.
Katieng Waterfall.

Cha Ong was another beautiful waterfall that does allow swimming for a hot day. Bonus—a swinging bridge is nearby to take in a better view of the sights. The place is very green here with tress to keep you cool in the shade.
Cha Ong Waterfall.
The bridge above the river.

Right after lunch we went to visit the famous Lake Yeak Laom crater lake. Everything about it is gorgeous! So serene and beautiful. It occupies a 4, 000 year old volcanic crater with clear and pure water. We did swim here and took our time which was relaxing. There was a swinging rope used to dive in the lake which people seemed to be enjoying.

Lake Yeakom Laom.
Fun time.
My travel mates and I.
Taking in the view.
The next morning we went on a two day trek in the Ratanakiri jungle. It was a fabulous time, the guide was really enthusiastic. What a shame though seeing the lack of preservation to this ancient site—many distinguished and vintage redwoods were being chopped for the sake of housing. While discovering I had the pleasure of meeting some ants who got too personal and injected a stinging liquid in my skin. It hurt for a bit but wasn’t itchy. It seemed like my 'welcome to the jungle!' We trekked for about five hours and a lot was experienced on this day. We drank water from a piece of wood (called a water tree I believe). We stopped by the stream of water to have a packed lunch while we relaxed and sampled some wild bush seeds and sweet sugar cane. It felt great to breathe some fresh air. We continued on our way with the sounds of machines destroying nature from a distance.


Break during the trek.
Beautiful trees in the nature.
Having a drink from a piece of wood.

Upon reaching our destination for the evening we hung our hammocks and gazed upon the moonlight hovering over the redwoods. There was a stream of water to swim nearby or take a relaxing bath. Our guide made a fire while we brought some firewood. Our meal consisted of bamboo stick rice, chicken and veggies  that our guide had retrieved during the trek topped off with a glass of rice wine. The meal was placed on a fire and rotated from time to time to make sure it was evenly cooked.

Our view at the campsite.
Perfect for a good swim.
Hammocks hung for the night.
Our rice being cooked.
The guide scooping out the rice.
After dinner it was suggested we go hunt frogs which would later be served. We were in shock! He captured 7 of them and I saw the eighth one. Even though he asked me to catch it, I could not bring myself to do it. The frogs were placed in a bottle and sprinkled with salt. Our guide shook the contents and I wondered if the salt had killed them. He then got them out of the bottle, cleaned the insides, washed them and then they were deep fried to sleep with salt. Voila! Ready to eat. I was really nervous about trying them, I had to close my eyes, but wow! Delicious! We all ended up having a second frog. Sorry Kermit, but you were yummy.

Frogs being fried.
Frog ready to eat.
To eat the frog or not.

After breakfast, it was yet another day of trekking back to the starting point using another route. We came across beautiful views of the greenery that we didn’t see earlier. We ate some wild bananas on the way. These are interesting because they have big seeds in them. We made sure to take breaks whenever we could while we enjoyed mother nature. After about 6 hours, we made it back to the starting point and had some lunch. I highly recommend the tour, you learn so much!

Having a break on our way back.
Wild banana.
Our favourite cook.
Seeing how far I had come.
Banlung is not the easiest place to get to, but it’s well worth the wait. Enjoy mother nature in this beautiful Province of Ratanakiri.


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