An overbooked flight to Banlung
Our motorcycle drivers already wait for us when we get out of the guesthouse, packed and sacked, to take us to the airport for our flight to Banlung. The check-in is slow but fluent. Even though this is a domestic flight, we still have to pay a 6$ departure tax. There are quite a few candidates for the trip to Banlung, about fifty people, most of them are Westerners.
Resisting a seat in the cockpit
We fly with a Russian propeller plane. Apparently, it is an overbooked flight as well; for one passenger there is no place, someone else is already sitting in her seat. The flight attendants offer her a place in the cockpit, I would not say no to that. However, she insists on taking her reserved place. It takes her a lot of effort, but in the end, she gets what she wants.
Arriving in the middle of nowhere
After a one hour flight, we land on a gravel road in Banlung. The airport can be best described as a refined barrack. You really get the impression of having arrived in the middle of nowhere. Here again, we are touted by a bunch of hotel baiters, but it is by no means a rush as in the other cities that we visited. We join mister Leng, owner of a large hotel in town. The rooms may be somewhat outdated, but the hotel in itself is an attractive place here, and all room amenities also function effectively.
Arranging a trip to Ka Chanh waterfall
At lunch, mister Leng joins us to offer some sightseeing trips; he is a seasoned businessman. With a little luck, we can visit a few waterfalls and the volcanic lake this afternoon with his 4 wheel drive, if two extra people go along. Ultimately, the other 2 only want to visit the lake, so two motorists are recruited for us. First, we drive to the Ka Chanh waterfall, about 5 kilometers outside the city.
To reach the waterfall you will be chewing sand in Banlung
In this part of Cambodia, the far east, there are no asphalt roads, only sandy strips, sometimes paved, usually not. Because of that I already bought a scarf in Phnom Penh with this part of the journey in mind. I put it on and hide my face as far as possible behind it. For sure, we will be chewing sand in Banlung, and we will appear very dusted at the end of the day.
Watch out where you dive at Ka Chanh waterfall
Fortunately, the trips are not that far today. We reach the Ka Chanh waterfall after about a twenty minutes’ drive. It is a beautiful one with a fall of about 10 meters. You are allowed to swim, something my travel companion won’t let say twice. He changes clothes, takes off his glasses, steps into the water, and takes a dip. Both I and one of our drivers, hold our breath. The place where he dives is shallow and full of rocks. Luckily, he does not really hurt himself. A bit further in the water pit, he can swim more freely. But the swimming session does not last long, because of the strong current.
A volcanic lake with very bright water
A bit later, we leave for the volcanic lake; therefore, we need to go to the other side of the city, another twenty minutes` drive while chewing sand in Banlung. At the lake, you can walk around, or of course, swim in it. A hut at the lake exhibits typical utensils of the local tribes. The water of the lake is incredibly bright, at some spots you can look into the water a few meters deep. We walk around the lake for about an hour. Afterward, my fellow traveler takes a dip in the pool. In the evenings mainly the local youth show up at the lake to hang out and swim.
Chewing sand in Banlung again to reach the center of the city
Just before sunset, we head back to the hotel. Near the city center, we end up chewing sand in Banlung again, as we drive through a large cloud of dust. Our faces and bodies are entirely covered with red sand particles. So the shower after a refreshing drink is more than welcome. We take dinner on the terrace of the hotel.
An offer to go watch some live music
When my companion walks around the city afterward, he gets an offer to go watch some live music bands in a village 4 km away. When mister Leng passes by, I ask him about those performances. An ethnic minority village organized this; they always come with vast amounts of rice wine. While I stay at the hotel, my friend goes over to take a look. Around 10 o’clock, he already returns. The bands apparently had already stopped playing.
Ending the evening with guitar tunes an lots of alcohol
Mister Leng invites us for a drink in the bar across the street from the hotel. We join a table with some guests that are staying in the hotel. We consume a lot of drinks, beer, and gin. One of the guests and mister Leng play some guitar tunes, adding to an atmospheric evening. Around half-past one, we say goodnight. Lightly intoxicated, we dive into our beds.