Ban Lung in NE Cambodia offers visitors a chance to visit a crater lake and several waterfalls. Perhaps we expected too much from this often-missed province, because in our opinion, the best thing was the deep fried sandwich!
Sights and Activities
The biggest reason to come to Ban Lung is for Boeng Yeak Laom. It definitely made me nervous when what Lonely Planet described as "one of the most serene and sublimely beautiful sites in all of Cambodia" looks like this:
But after the 6 kilometer bike ride, we weren't about to just turn around and go back. Instead, we jumped in, in our clothes as is the local fashion. The water really was clear, but it was a little warm and not completely refreshing. Because it was day 100 (sarcasm) of the Khmer New Year, the lake was packed and our presence attracted more than a few onlookers. This is certainly more a local attraction than a tourist one!
The most exciting part of the day was when it started to pour and we were forced to hide under a shed with a bunch of locals. We had some great conversations that gave us some hope for the future of this country.
Other attractions close to Ban Lung include a few waterfalls, which were pretty muddy during dry season, and a nearby temple with good views. You can rent a motorbike to get to everything ($4 if you ask for half-day).
Overall, we think this town is completely skippable. The city itself (and the surrounding attractions) were really dirty, as we'd soon see to be the case in most of Cambodia.
Getting here, especially after crossing the border from Laos is a pain, and you can see better natural sites elsewhere in the region.
As if our first day in Cambodia wasn't bad enough, we had a really hard time finding a place to stay. Prices were inflated because, you guessed it, it was New Year, and many places were booked. We ended up walking around until it started pouring, which is when we ended up at Colonial Lake Palace on the lake. It was a nicely appointed room with a flatscreen TV, but expensive at $25 for the first night and $15 for the next two.
Food and Drink
Lots of restaurants were closed because of the seemingly never-ending New Year, but Gecko Bar had decent (if overpriced) food and really cold drafts. Everest, an Indian place on the main drag, was more affordable, though it wasn't nearly as good as our Indian food in Laos. But hey, they made us food even when the power was out.
The best place in town was absolutely one of the the sandwich carts by the market. For the steep price of 50 cents, you could get a shrimp sandwich with local spices, cucumbers, and what looked like sauerkraut—all on a deep fried bun. So good!
Our bike rental cost $1 each. Motorbike was $4 for a half-day and our bus ticket to Kratie, which we booked in town, was $8. That included pick up at our hotel.
More Ban Lung
Interested in seeing the crater lake and waterfalls without paying for a plane ticket? Check out our Ban Lung photo tour.
Have any tips for backpacking North Cambodia? Let us know in the comments!