With the need to shake off the darkness of Phnom Penh, I headed north east to the Ratanakiri province to a town called Ban Lung with an Irish man called Paddy. It was a 10 hour bus ride along paths questionably marked as roads. The bus we got on was a bit clapped out to say the least but after seeing the roads I could understand why. The road even when paved had pot holes the size of craters. We were thrown and bounced around much of the way. At one point I looked out of the window and we were literally following a path with mud up to my calves either side. Our driver was also in a hurry to get there and hurtled the bus round corners and over bumps like he was late for dinner! Despite that we did get to see the beautiful Cambodian countryside. Lush green landscapes and deep red soil. It was stunning.
Unfortunately as we arrived achingly into Ban Lung, the heavens opened and the biggest storm I have seen yet, decided to descend upon us. It also got dark. With this our options of places to stay were limited so we took the first available one. An old villa converted into a hotel- it was creepy. The foyer had wood paneling with animal heads and no lights. The room we stayed in was massive but tiled like a bathroom. Luckily we did have a TV with English channels and were able to enjoy the evening out of the storm.
Next day we left the scary hotel to find one that had been recommended to us. This had bungalows overlooking the tree tops and was beautiful in design. A million times better!
Hiring two motorbikes and drivers, we went to find Crater Lake. Not sure whether it was a volcanic crater lake or not, it was still refreshing to swim in. A bit murky and unsure about what animals lurked in it's waters I only stayed in enough to cool down from the heat. Some misunderstanding with our drivers and the fact they wanted us to pay an extortionate amount to be brought back, we decided to walk back to our hotel. A lovely 40 minute walk we got to see some real Cambodia, including the paddy fields and people just generally lazying around. It also meant that we could stop at the market stalls and buy some fresh fruit including lychees, bananas, mangos and what we think are called mangonecs. Fresh fruit for very little money. Mmm.
With little else to do hear and having enjoyed some real Cambodia we decided to brave the bumpy road once more and head off into Laos.