It was most definitely not love at first sight with Cambodia.
First of all we were scammed by the border officials entering the country from the Laos border (top tip: take plenty of 1 USD notes, you won’t get change from them for all their little ‘fees’ they have fabricated). You can’t really do much about it as they have your passport, so cough up the dollars and swallow your pride.
Then we were booted off our nice comfortable air-conditioned coach at Stung Treng onto a local mini bus. Here I discovered that a vehicle designed to take 14 people can in fact take 20 adults and one small child. Plus their luggage. Plus a motorbike strapped to the rear of the vehicle. I had the misfortune to be in a row designed for 3 people which was instead seating 4 adults plus the small child who invaded most of what little of the seat I had left. Alan had the misfortune to be sitting above a greasy container that stunk of fish. When he tried to move it so he could put his feet on the floor he got greasy smelly fish oil on him. So instead he sat with his knees up to his chin rather than risk touching the container again.
After a long and very uncomfortable hot journey we arrived in Ban Lung. It was decidedly ugly to be honest. A far cry from the rustic charms of Laos which was had just travelled from. My heart sank.
We trudged our way towards the lake to find somewhere to stay. Children finishing school pedaled past us on their bikes waving and shouting “hello” at us with big grins on their faces as we walked through the hot dusty streets with our backpacks. Ok, so Cambodia does have something going for it I grudgingly conceded, still not in the best frame of mind after our pretty awful journey.
The next day we had signed ourselves up for a trip to see the waterfalls and Boeng Yeak Lom, a lake formed in an old volcanic crater. These were all outside of the town so we were taken round by our guide on the back of a motorbike each. The soil around Ban Lung is rust coloured and in the dry season the rust soil turns to rust dust. This is what you look like after a day biking around the countryside there and your helmet has no visor to cover your face:
First stop was Chaa Ong waterfall where it is possible to walk behind the water:
Next stop was Ka Tieng where it is possible to swim in the pool and go behind the waterfall to a ledge (we didn’t go in, the water felt cold!):
Last waterfall was Kinchaan which had a really cool swing bridge going across the stream. This was the most spectacular of the three in my opinion:
After lunch we headed over to Boeng Yeak Lom. Our guide announced he was going to play volleyball while we were at the lake. He would be back in 3 hours. I can’t say I was overly impressed at being abandoned at the lake for so long…
First of all we walked around the edge of the lake which he told us would take an hour. It took us 40 minutes. Walking very slowly. We were treated to glimpses of lizards and snakes as we made our way round.
With 2 hours and twenty minutes still to kill we had a sit down, biding our time before going for a swim not wanting to end up cold and shivering afterwards.
When we reached an hour and a half to go we decided it was time for a swim. The water, we were pleased to discover, was actually really warm! We spent an hour in total swimming little laps up and down near the pontoon. We were grateful we could spend so long in the lake, it meant the remaining time went by quickly.
At 4pm precisely our guide reappeared, fresh from his volleyball match. We hopped back on the bikes and headed back to town.
The day out seeing the natural beauty around Ban Lung had softened my opinions from the day before. Not wanting to go trekking there wasn’t a lot else to do in Ban Lung. We booked ourselves onto another minibus (shudder) for the next day to Siem Reap. Our guide conveniently did bus tickets too and assured us it would be better than the one we arrived on. I wasn’t holding my breath though…