From Kratie we head North-East to Ban Lung, a small town up by the border with Laos. The town is nothing special, but it’s a good base from which to explore some Cambodian countryside. We stay in an eco-lodge, in a little thatched bungalow with a hammock outside. There are cute little striped squirrels living in the tree next to us. And I think also living in our roof, at least there’s something living up there and I prefer to believe it’s cute squirrels.
Most travellers we meet seem to have embraced the ubiquitous moped as their mode of transport, but I’m still too nervous and Mr Beet is not keen either, given the state of the roads. So we stick to hiring a couple of push bikes to get us around. In a dusty country, Ban Lung is famous for its dust, and all the trees are coated in a reddish-brown layer, making it permanently autumnal. We have to do as the locals do and where scarves over our faces when cycling, as if we are making our getaway from a bank robbery on two geriatric bicycles.
Within cycling distance of town, there are three waterfalls and a lake in a volcanic crater. All good swimming spots, so I can cool off after a morning’s cycle and also wash off the dust.
I’ve been practising taking my hands off the handlebars while cycling, which is an important skill as there is much waving and hello-ing to be done to the children living in the villages along the way.
At one of the waterfalls we leave the bikes and do the last bit of the journey through the jungle on the back of an elephant. The elephant was very beautiful and we basically just sat on him while he went about his business of eating everything in sight. I was pleased to see that he wasn’t in any way rushed to get us to our destination, but was allowed to graze as much as he liked on the way. Even the mahout stopped for a snack, picking up a big beetle and pulling off its legs. Yum. The elephant was rewarded for our little trip because there were banana trees at the end, which seemed to be his favourite, and he spent ten minutes ripping them to pieces to get at the juicy bits. He even carried a bit of banana tree back to the start, I think to show off to the other elephant.
Ban Lung is our final destination in Cambodia, our next stop is one of the 4,000 islands in Laos.
Some more pictures of Ban Lung are available on Mr Beet’s flickr page.