Ban Lung: Cambodia in the face!

US Dollars in hand, we got our visas at the Laos-Cambodia border & stopped off in Stung Treng before our final bus to Ban Lung in the North West of Cambodia. Cambodia’s currency is Riel, 4000 of which equals $ 1, … bloody inflation hey !?… but for reasons I do not truly understand they much prefer to deal in dollars, which did mean Nicky could at last understand a currency without asking me how much every item was!!! Ban Lung is what our guide book calls ‘the true Cambodia’ because there are so few tourists here & it has retained its true identity … which basically means VERY few amenities & very few familiar white faces. Having left James & Mollie in Stung Treng as they headed else where, we quickly befriended the only other Caucasians for miles, a lovely kiwi couple, & we all went to ‘Tree Top Bungalows’ together. By far the nicest place we would stay on our travels, our bungalow was ski chalet-esque, & Run by a great guy they call, ‘Mr T’ … certainly not named after the A-team member though!!!

 

Black Panther, ‘Feel the Power’

We again rented motorbikes & headed to the main attraction, a volcanic crater lake!! With its teal blue waters & picturesque surroundings it was amazing to find ourselves diving into this mirage off one of the piers dotted around the circumference, families staring at the strange foreigners acting like children … But before all of that we had stopped fora few beers with 4 local lads. They generously handed out some cans of ‘Black Panther’ beer, the slogan of which was’ feel the power’!… at 8% you definitely feel it!! Unfortunately their English was pretty shocking & my Cambodian leaves a little to be desired so rather than talking we just looked at each other in silence, raised our cans together, yelled a generic dull cheer & drank! All very fun & entertaining.

 

The next day we took our beaten up old motorbike to some waterfalls nearby. The roads leading to these waterfalls were appalling, way worse than what we had experienced in Laos! All was going well until we left 1 of the falls to head home. There were puddles EVERYWHERE & thread thin tyre tracks to avoid the pits, pots & puddles that surrounded. My driving skills, impeccable as always, saw us through fine… until a tractor was blocking the only path. I saw a puddle ahead, it was pretty big admittedly, but I thought, ‘hey, how deep can it be ?!’… Turns out VERY DEEP!!! The front wheel went in & I found myself knee-deep in a mud pool. Locals watching, … notably not helping, I dragged our sorry excuse for a bike out of the puddle while Nicky & the locals laughed. It took about 15 minutes plus five extra for some maintainance work on the bike & we were away again … thank god!! We were out in the sticks, the middle of one of Cambodia’s poorest areas, around 6 miles from our comfy digs, not a lick of English spoken by any locals, beaten up bike perilously close to break down … needless to say it might have been troublesome.

Volcanic Crater Lake

The market in Ban Lung was where it was fully apparent how alien this place was to us. A true market town, this was supposed to be the vibrant centre of the universe to the farming inhabitants of the area. The cramped stalls were manned by sleepy, sad looking husbands & wives.The most prominent products were, ridiculously, cosmetics & Toiletries none of which were more recent than 1995. There was also a lot of downcast food produce that didn’t look too much more fresh itself!! The dust from the dated roads billowed around the entire establishment, spoiling any half-decent produce. This was the life & soul of the town & it looked deader than a doorknob. A real slap in the face to bring home how poverty-stricken this region really was.  

Struggling market

 


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