Don’t tell anybody BUT, I’ve found Cambodia’s hidden gem!!
Over the past few days Lizzie (the sis) and I have been exploring Banlung, the capital city of the Ratanakiri Province in the North of Cambodia (close to the Laos border).
After over a week in the bustling city of Siem Reap, we were keen to escape the tourists and surround ourselves with natural beauty, rolling countryside and a waterfall or two.
Banlung was all we had imagined it to be and more.
On our first day we made the 10 minute journey to Boeung Yeak Laom, a scenic cater lake, which is sacred to the local people.
On arrival we paid the $2 entry fee and sauntered our way down the stairs towards the lake.
As the trees cleared we were treated to a breathtaking vista of inviting blue water contrasted with vibrant green foliage, which hugged the outskirts of the lake.
It was a beautiful oasis and we couldn’t wait to take a dip.
There were multiple docks scattered along the lake so, we bopped further round the water until we came across a sheltered deck all to ourselves!
Before you could say ‘splash’, we’d leapt into the water to cool off from the sweltering Cambodian heat.
As we inelegantly flapped around in joy, I realised it was one of those ‘I can’t believe there aren’t more people here’ moments, which are so hard to come by whilst travelling these days.
There weren’t hundreds of life jackets bobbing around us and loads of noise disturbing our zen, it was just us, the water and nature.
Once we’d lapped up the lake we zoomed off in search of some waterfalls. Passing through uniformed lines of trees and shrubbery, local villages and schools and an abundance of vibrant palms sprinkled with orange dust from the dirt track, it was a stunning drive.
Made all the better by the waterfall we found at the end of the journey…
A tiered waterfall surrounded by blissful swaying trees and chirping birds, it was the perfect end to a perfect day.
The next morning we decided we hadn’t had enough of chasing waterfalls so, headed off on our next adventure to uncover some more hidden gems in Banlung.
And boy did we succeed!
Within an hour (including a rather bumpy drive down a dirt track), we were treated to yet another picture-perfect, deserted waterfall – Katieng Waterfall. We waddled down the rickety wooden stairs before reaching a powerful waterfall, which cascaded into a glistening pool of water.
We jumped right in and flapped around trying to do our best Peter Andre ‘Mysterious Girl’ impression in celebration of our great find…
The final stop of the day was another waterfall around ten minutes drive down the road – because, you can never swim in too many waterfalls in one day, right?
This one was slightly more popular with an ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’-esque bridge, a grand total of three other tourists and a group of excitable school children splashing around having a ball.
Once again we stripped off and dove (aka. slid inelegantly down the slippery rocks) straight in.
The huge log in the centre of the pool was a great spot to perch and take in the tranquil surroundings.
However, I had a little trouble getting up to begin with…
Cue, photo shoot…
Our two days in Banlung were up there with two of the best days I’ve had whilst travelling so far. Getting off the beaten track and discovering places, which were still so untouched was unforgettable and I can’t urge people who are travelling through Cambodia to pop by and check it out for themselves.
If you have more time than we did, Banlung is also conveniently placed close to the largest National Park in Cambodia – Virachey – which is a great place for treks ranging from one day to a week.
Rent a moped, a bicycle (if you’re brave and very fit) or a tuk tuk and see what you can find – just don’t tell tooooo many people ;)!