So after our crazy bus journey to Banlung, we arrived at the bus station, met with more craziness! Around 15 people surrounded us with pictures of guesthouses and offers of free tuk tuk rides to them, it was very overwhelming, in the end we decided to go with a girl as she was friendly and the only girl ? Her name was Reanska, we all hopped into a tuk tuk and headed for a guesthouse on the lake near the centre of town.
As we drove along, we came across a motorbike accident, it had veered into a tuk tuk, the two guys were very young, at most they were in their early twenties. Reanska knew them and fainted when she seen all the blood, we learned later that her brother had been in an accident a couple of years before. Many people were surrounding the accident, I asked the tuk tuk driver who was involved in the accident if he had rang the ambulance, he looked at me like I had two heads and said there would be no ambulance.
We gently lifted the hurt guy into the tuk tuk and I went with him to hold him and try to stem to bleeding and get him to come around. I talked to him, wishing he would open his eyes or say something..When we arrived in the hospital, I was shocked at how bare it was, how little equipment they had to work with and vowed if I ever won the lotto, this is where the money would go. The tuk tuk driver was very distraught, the hurt guy was also his friend, his family arrived shortly at which point I felt I should go. They would bring him to Vietnam to where there are better facilities in their car with his IV and blood bag and all!
I had no phone or money so I asked for directions to the lake. A young guy who worked at the hospital kindly gave me a lift back to the hotel and made sure I was ok. It was at this point, I fell in love with the people of this country, they don’t have much but they have big hearts ? I heard later that the guy was improving in Vietnam, thank Buddha ? I met Phil at the guesthouse and we both needed a stiff drink. We got cocktails at the expensive restaurant but thought we deserved them.
The next morning, we decided to do an excursion to the three waterfalls and the crater lake. Sena brought us to bamboo restaurant, I was happy as their pancakes are huge but Phil wasn’t as his breakfast came without sausages or toast! The road to the waterfalls was a very bumpy dirt track, we knew it wasn’t going to be good when Sena stopped to put on gloves! All the waterfalls were beautiful in their own right, the first you could walk behind, the next you could swim at and the last you could view from a suspension bridge.
Local tribes people were selling handwoven garments at the last waterfall. You could also see them weaving scarves, I bought a scarf for five dollars, it’s really beautiful and I prefer to support locals than chain shops and get authentic stuff. The highlight of the trip was definitely the crater lake. It was so clear and still and peaceful, perfect place to get some zen. We went for a swim and the water was lovely and warm, many locals were jumping into the lake off the trees! The lake is a spiritual place, meant to house spirits and was formed by a volcano or a meteorite (the debate goes on!). We got some lunch at the lake and walked around it. It was a truly lovely day out for only 25 dollars.
We walked to banlung balcony for dinner, what a great wee spot. Full of atmosphere, great food, great drinks and friendly locals. We got tasty western food, you do miss it after a while and got talking to other backpackers. We retired for the night and got the free tuk tuk service back to our hotel (perks ?)
The next day, we went on a day trek with an English speaking guide and a minority guide from the Kalay community. We got moto taxis to the start of the trek and when we arrived we were covered in red dust! Don’t ask me how the drivers see where they are going! The trek was a tonne of fun, we could eat half the forest! Our guides knew so much, we ate sour and sweet plants, drank water from a tree and learned tricks of how to drink rice wine. You put a sweet bark in it to get drunk faster and you put some milk oil from a bark in it to avoid getting a hangover. We learned of plants to cure malaria, nausea and labour pains ?
We ate our lunch by a river and after lunch, our guides made us mugs and spoons from bamboo, they are really talented people. We also learned to play the bamboo like a flute, this was real thrill for me. We heard gibbons but didn’t see them, we did see many birds and heard the parrot like birds which our guides whistled to and they whistled back (reminding me of the hunger games!) and several giant spiders. We came to our indigenous guides hut, met his sons and dogs and seen rice wine being made and how the cook with bamboo over an open fire. I got bitten as per usual and our guide gave me a plant which stopped the itching like magic ? I pocketed some for later ?
That night we went to Banlung again and met Coral from Taiwan (whom we first met in Kratie), it was great to catch up ? We also met some Americans, a mother and son who were there to do the overnight trekking. The son lives in Koh rong island so we agreed to see him in a weeks time when we will make our way to the coast ? The next morning we caught the early, direct 555 bus to Siem Reap from outside our hotel. It cost us 17 dollars.
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