Ban Lung Life

Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
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Trip End May 30, 2013


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Where I stayed
Banlung Balcony Guesthouse & Restaurant
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Cambodia  , Ratanakiri Province,
Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ban Lung:  also known as Dey Krahorm (red earth) because of it's rusty  coloured earth. We've seen red roads everywhere in Cambodia, but here  they are richer and deeper in colour.  Supposedly very fertile and good  for growing. Current farming schemes are rubber and cassava. Many places along the way were busy wetting down the roads in an attempt to keep to dust down. After even a short moto ride my eyes were caked with dust and my glasses covered. Any longer than that and clothing is completely saturated through. Motos are ok on these road, but anything larger kicks up a huge quantity of dust making it impossible to see for
almost a full minute. Thankfully, my driver had a covered helmet.  The facemasks people wear help your mouth and nose, but do nothing for the eyes.

Far flung into the NE and just on the cusp of tourism development. I'm quite excited to get out and see it before it's destroyed. After Siem Reap it's a breath of fresh air to not be gouged on prices. I bought a bag of oranges and bananas for 3000R (75 cents) when in SR I paid 6000R at the market. A small bottle of water is 1500R vs 2000R.

There is more mystery here. Finally the land has started to roll instead of being dead flat. Close to the Vietnam and Laos border, it's home to a lot of different minority groups. All with their own language and customs.

We barely got outside the city limits, and cows and pigs were cluttering the road. People wearing large baskets were walking down the road. Turning off the main road, it narrowed to a wide walking path. Fine for motos and maybe a small cart, but not passable by car. I'm not even sure if people in these villages have moto bikes as I only saw people walking. Their main concern is growing rice and raising water buffalo so they can eat. They function as self-sufficient communities and don't have any business.  A few things on the side such as weaving or making jar wine bring in a little money.

***

Sunday Afternoon:  Yeak Loam Lake is formed inside an old volcanic crater. On a Sunday afternoon it was a complete local hang out. Big families parked in the shade on bamboo mats. Some sipping fermented rice wine out of ceramic jars, others cooking on charcoal stoves perched on old metal pails. Children doing back flips off the dock wearing long sleeve shirts and jeans.

***

Giving:  I saw my first landmine victims begging today. Two men were sitting by the entrance of the lake. One had no leg from the knee down, and the other didn't have any hands. Unlike some other beggars, I instantly felt compassion for them. Not knowing what to give, I found a 2000R note (50 cents) to give. When I put it in his hat, I noticed that the other bills were all 100R notes. He was soo very thankful and every time I was within eyesight he bowed his thanks. I couldn't believe it, as I still don't think it's enough to even buy a bunch of bananas...

***

Coconut Shakes:  There's a place down the road that makes the most wonderful coconut shakes.  Not something I would have normally chosen off of a menu, but I must admit I think I'm addicted!  I have no idea what they put in them or how they make them.  Even as someone who loves to cook, I don't even want to know.  Drinking it is like liquid clouds from heaven in your mouth.  Cool and creamy, yet I can't detect any ice or milk...I think I'll keep it a secret and just enjoy!

***

Rubber Trees:  Don't waste the rubber tree! Rubber is one of the main 'crops' here (besides cashew and cassava) in Rantanakiri. So different from Pipat's farm in Thailand.  Drove by some fields of new saplings across the road from old and knarled ones with scars that must be 20-25' high! But these tress are not finished, oh no. The branches are still good!  Someone is climbing up and cutting the tree in these obscure places and then running a line down to be gathered. Many large trees had several lines running to fancy collector devices (aka baggie).

***

Airport:  Driving out to some waterfalls, we took a short-cut through the airport.  Driving along the dirt runway is much smoother than any of the back roads through town. And since it's only used once every few months by government officials visiting the area, it would be a waste of space if not used!

***


Jar Rice Wine:  People make a kind of rice wine packed in jars which we were eager
to try.  Rice is dried and roughly broken out of the husks, which are
not removed.  Steamed in a special basket and then packed in ceramic
jars, they're covered and let to ferment for a few weeks (depending on
flavour desired).  When you want to drink, simply fill with water and
allow to steep like tea for 10 minutes or so.  It was not at all what I
had imagined it to taste like.  I think I had Japanese Sake in my mind
when I think of rice wine, but this is very mild and doesn't taste of
alcohol at all.  But the best part is that you get to use bamboo straws
and the jar can be filled over and over again until the taste runs out!

***

Road Construction:  Roads barely wide enough for 2 mopeds to pass one another. During one section they were reworking the road. I think they must have used their garbage as fill, as all the pigs had gathered together and were promptly uprooting the new road.  Several sections had not been as nicely smoothed out as the pig section and it gave new meaning to the expression 'path of least resistance'. Within a mili-second, the driver decides which route is
the best – less bumps, holes, rocks, etc. And since there is no actual path, the choices are endless! Sometimes you get bumped around so much on one, it jars you onto another. Be careful of the high sections, they may be clear, but you could slide off. Is that soft sand or packed dirt? Better slow down! It's all fine until you meet an oncoming vehicle who's chosen the same path as you. Then it's a game to see who bails first and who gets to keep driving on
the preferred path.

***

Restaurants:  Down the road is a series of restaurants across from another lake.  On the lake side, they have set out a series of bamboo mats on the side-walk, all with condiment baskets on them.  A few lights strung through the trees and you have a bustling picnic place come sunset.

***

Cell Coverage:  Went out to see some minority villages a hour's drive down rough roads and then about 30 min by boat only to find mobile phone towers.  These people live a self sufficient life with almost no money.  As we're enjoying the serenity around, a large mobile phone tower obscures the landscape while our guide's phone goes off.  Not reachable by road, no electricity, but they still have phones.  I tried to explain to him how strange this is as the area we're from in Canada doesn't even have this type of coverage, but this boggled his mind that a country like Canada could not have coverage.  No electricity in the village and no generators.  How do they charge their phones you ask?  Off an old car battery of course!





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