It was a long and dusty ride on the public bus, setting off from the guesthouse at 8.30, then not getting out of Kampong Cham until 10 and then it wasn’t until 7pm that we finally made it into Ban Lung. We stopped and started all day, dropping people (and animals) off and picking them up. We even picked up 3 or 4 solid wooden bed frames that were transported in the aisle of the bus all the way to Ban Lung.
As I got off the bus the first thing that caught my eye was the table full of grilled cockroaches and other delightful looking bugs however before I had a chance to get a good look I was surrounded by the usual swarm of locals trying to poach me but this time I already had a ride on the way.
The plan for Ban Lung was to stay with a friend who I met in Siem Reap, she was on a 12 month volunteer placement through VSO and although she had only been in the area for about a month she offered to play tour guide. She picked me up on her motto and we headed back to her place. She lived on the second level of a relatively new wooden house with an awesome deck that went right around the house. I couldn’t see too much of inside as the power was out – A common occurrence in this part of Ban Lung. We headed out and had some dinner by Boeung Kan Siang lake and then went back and chilled out on the deck gazing out at the stars which were stunning. You could see the Milky Way in detail and thousands upon thousands of stars as there was next to no light pollution out here. The only hint of light was the batman lights that were scanning the sky – lighting for the National Victory Over Genocide Day holiday that the town was gearing up for tomorrow night.
My first full day in Ban Lung was pretty cruisy and was spent exploring Kan Chang and Ka Tieng waterfalls which are about 10km out of town. Neither were jaw dropping but they were both nice and it was great to be able to go for a swim. The falls at Kan Chang were about 7m high and dropped down into a circular pool, there was a group of young kids swimming and playing around. We mucked around with them for a bit, my friend was able to chat to them a bit in Khmer and maybe a bit of English. Ka Tieng is about 10-15mins motto ride from Kan Chang, near the waterfall you can also do an Elephant ride however a girl we met at the falls didn’t recommend it as it was expensive and you just did a boring loop through the forest. This was a larger waterfall, maybe about 10m dropping into a larger circular pool where you can swim and also get up behind the falls.
We also checked out the Reclining Buddha, part of the local Wat which is on the hill on the way into town. From here there were some decent views across the town and onto the mountains in Laos to the north.
Another Aussie guy joined us that afternoon and our trio was now complete. That evening we headed out to the National Victory Over Genocide Day celebrations in the centre of town. The place was packed, the beers were flowing and a stage had been erected with famous performers from Phnom Phen rocking the stage. The performances were quite mixed to say the least; there were slow ballads, pop music, sexy songs, country style tracks and the highlight, a mega mix that went from Boy Band to MJ to Daft Punk!
While in Ban Lung we also checked out Kinchaan waterfall which was huge but there wasn’t really anywhere to swim as it cascaded onto rocks below and then the volcanic lake, Boeng Yeak Laom. The lake was nice and surrounded by lush forest. It is an important site to the local indigenous community and it even has its own lake monster dwelling in its 50m depths.
The whole time I spent in Ban Lung was heaps of fun but the highlight was our ride out to Voen Sai. After Breakfast and figuring out how to fill up the water tank from the underground water supply we were on our way. It was about a 40km ride along dusty unsealed roads past water buffalo, villages and some swamp lands. I even had stack on the bike when after crossing a bridge and hitting a bump the water bottles flew out of the basket and took out the front wheel, the bike skidded to the ground but somehow I managed to stay on my feet but I had to keep moving which ended with me jumping from the road into a shrub of prickles… Both the bike and I made it through unscaved, it was just my ego that was bruised as it happened in front of a large group of local guys who couldn’t stop laughing.
It was then back on the bike and on the road to Voen Sai. The ferry crossing was the next challenge where we had to ride the bikes down a steep embankment then across soft sand to the boat that would ferry us to the other side. Miraculously we made it down and across the sand without any problems. On the other side of the river was a Chinese settlement, we rode up alongside the river for a while, checked out the Buddhist temple and had some lunch. It was then time to make haste back to Ban Lung for dinner. There were no accidents on the way home but by the time we arrived back it looked like we’d all been rolling around in the dirt.
The following day I said good bye and made the journey further north and crossed the border into Laos.