Posted by Lois on -
When you think of Cambodia, what comes to mind?
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Killing Fields are the most common answers. But before pressing on to the depression that awaited us in Phnom Penh, we decided to make a detour to Ban Lung in Eastern Cambodia.
Ban Lung is the capital of Ratanikiri Province although appearances can be deceiving. For a capital, the town itself is small and the surrounding area is deeply forested. Most locals go around on motorbike on dirt roads that can turn any colored shirt into a dark shade of red in minutes. There are very few foreigners around and you keep running into the same people all over town.
My initial description would probably leave you glassy eyed and drifting off. But hear me out first. Don't skip this place just because the famous guidebook says little about it. Go off the beaten path in Cambodia and discover a real gem. Here's why you should include Ban Lung in your itinerary on your next trip to Cambodia:
Do you still remember my big waterfall disappointment in Laos? Our experience in Cambodia was the total opposite of that. There are several waterfalls in the area and we were lucky to visit 3 of them. Ka Tieng wasn't very high and the water looked a bit muddy. But the surrounding greenery made the place look very beautiful. I asked our guide/idol Mr. Kosal what Ka Tieng meant. He said it meant 'Loving'.
We accidentally found the Cha Ong waterfalls when we went on an elephant trek. This is the biggest waterfall in the area at 18 metres high. You can view it from the top. But if go all the way down the beautiful wooden steps, you will be rewarded with an even better view
The 3rd waterfall we visited is the Kan Chang waterfall. To get there, you have to cross a quaint hanging bridge. The falls itself is small and unimpressive. But it empties into a large pool with huge rocks in the background. I saw a lot of kids jumping into the water. And a guy even got on the highest point and jumped!
I've always thought that elephants are the most majestic creatures. I was enamored with the idea of riding into the forest on top of a huge elephant and singing 'In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps toniiight'. No equestrian riding apparel needed! But our $10 elephant ride came off as a disappointment. Our elephant Inchan was the laziest, most greedy elephant in the jungle. Instead of walking, she stomped around and grabbed a branch from every tree we passed! We barely got farther than 100 meters into the jungle until we had to turn back because the hour was up!
Hill Tribe Villages
You can visit many hill tribe villages all over Ban Lung. Because this place is not very touristy, the experience of seeing the local tribes felt authentic. It was a far cry from the human zoos that you can see all over Southeast Asia. The locals went about their daily activities like weaving, chopping wood and planting.
This temple is located about 1 kilometre out of town at the base of Eisey Patamak Mountain. You can go up the hill on motorbike and visit the large reclining Buddha. But that's not all. If you go on a short climb further uphill, you will be rewarded by a fantastic sunset view of the countryside.
Yaek Lom Crater Lake
If you're still not convinced with reasons 1-4, this place will make you want to book your trip to Ban Lung this very moment. The lake is formed from a 700,000 year old volcanic crater. The water is blue green and is the perfect spot for cooling yourself on scorching afternoons. The lake is considered to be sacred by the local minorities and many legends are told about it. We enjoyed swimming in this lake so much that we had to do it twice. And this was where my favorite jump shot was taken.
Ban Lung can be reached via minivan from Stung Treng which would take around 3-5 hours. If you are coming from Kratie, the bus ride would take 5-7 hours. There are also trips from Phnom Penh which take 8 hours. Please note that the road conditions are really bad especially during the rainy season.
Are you wondering how we learned about all of these places? Well, it wasn't our magnificent GPS skills this time. We had an amazing guide, Mr. Kosal who took us around Ban Lung on motorbike for 3 days. I'm sharing his story on the next post.
Have you ever ventured on the path less traveled? Did you make any discoveries?
Still making new discoveries,
Sole Sister Lois
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