The rumors of Banlung, Cambodia’s natural beauty is what brought us here. We had read in guidebooks & blog posts that visiting the beautiful sites and taking treks were the things to do here. Stacey and I didn’t really have the time to do multi-day treks so we looked into finding a reasonably priced one-day trek through the jungle near here, despite everyone thinking we were crazy and asking us with puzzled looks on their faces why we weren’t doing a two or three day trek. We finally found one that sort-of fit our budget, and went with it.
Our guide and his assistant came to pick us up on motorbikes and drove us about 45 minutes down a long very dusty road. They graciously gave us their helmets to wear and my first real ride (real meaning more than 5 minutes long) was a success despite our guide getting a ticket for not having a helmet on & telling me that most people wreck quite often.
They pulled up to this very bare building and waited while they gathered their supplies. (Just a helpful note, make sure that you ask just how much water is provided- we only received 1.5 liters for 12 miles in 100+ Fahrenheit and would have brought more with us if we had known.)
The beginning of our trek lead us down the street and past the local village life. Our guide explained to us that there was a big meeting about to start and that the people in the village would often get drunk before even starting the meeting so it would usually last multiple days. The photo above is where the drinking would take place. Our trek took us past people’s homes and into the fields and forests beyond. We saw animals (mostly semi-domestic) and lots of really interesting plants that our guide was always really good to point out to us. Above and below are photos of cashew fruit. I had never seen how a cashew was grown or harvested. We tried the fruit (above) which was all at once sweet, sour & bitter. I was amazed to see the actual cashew seed pod just grew out of the bottom of the fruit and was almost a light blue color. We began to pick up the seed pods up off the ground because our guide said we would eat those later (below). This plant was super cool. You could chop a vine off and water came out. Apparently, it stores the water and when there has been a lot of rain it can hold quite a bit of water. Jackfruit growing in the wild
After about two hours of walking we came upon a small A-framed, open hut in the woods. Our guide spoke with the family and told us about their lives as we sat for a water break and the family carried on with their daily activities. This man was weaving rattan and it was so impressive!
This pig, along with a few others, a ridiculously cute puppy and several chickens also called this hut their home.
We came to this tree that had a liquid inside of it. We hadn’t been big fans of most of the things he had us try, so we reluctantly stuck our fingers in this liquid and put it to our tongues… it was essentially kerosine! It tasted awful and that taste stayed in our mouths. Needless to say we were a bit annoyed with this one as he lit the tree on fire to produce more. Then out of nowhere, something crappy happened… The green forest we were walking through was suddenly not green anymore. It had been burnt down only three days before by the locals. This section of the trek went on for a couple hours, and there aren’t many photos from it because they all look like a bunch of burnt trees. This was definitely the worst section of the hike because it was already hot, and the freshly burnt ground and trees were still putting off a lot of heat. It was long and seemed longer with nothing pretty or new to look at.
Then all at once it turned green again near the river where we stopped for lunch- thank goodness! We had a scenic lunch-view of the river. We actually sat with our feet in the river where the water rushed over the edge and massaged our tired feet! We asked our guide how long this trek was compared to his two-day trek, he told us it was essentially the same, we’re just moving faster. Of course! Haha
Our lunch consisted of a really delicious veggie fried rice wrapped in a banana leaf!
Our guide’s assistant asked us if we wanted to see a frog, and we thought it was going to be something we got up and looked at. Nope, he just reached out his arm and showed us a frog he had just caught! The guides stripped down and swam in their underwear while Stacey & I respectfully declined that offer. If I didn’t have to hike back in denim shorts I may have taken them up on it. It was unbelievably hot!
After their swim, our guide took a bamboo tube and filled it with the cashews we had collected. After a few minutes, he moved the cashews from the bamboo tube into the fire directly. Then he took a stick and flicked them out of the fire and started to crack the outer shell open with a rock. THEY WERE SO DELICIOUS! They were still a little soft from just being roasted and he showed me how to crack them open and we feasted on freshly roasted cashews in the Cambodian jungle.
On our way back our guide cut off a long piece of bamboo and there, in the jungle, just carved us each bamboo cups with designs and everything! It was really incredible- I was super impressed; it only took him about 5 minutes to make them The last of the trek was done mostly in silence. We were all very hot, thirsty, tired and our feet hurt. There was even one moment where I was leading the pack, we were wiped out! He kept telling us things like this is the last hill and almost there!
The end of the trek offered beautiful views of the rolling hills of the area.
We made it to the top of the last hill and back to the little shack we started at. Our skin was at least two shades darker than it was at the beginning because we were covered in dirt and sweat, we were thirsty and tired, but we hiked 12 miles in Banlung.
I wish we had had the time to do a multiple day trek instead of just one day. It would have been more worth the money: you see a bit more and wouldn’t be quite so tired, I would assume. Even though we had a great guide, I loved the time with the families we met and seeing & trying all of the different plants & fruits along the way, I really wish the views had been prettier. There were moments of beauty, but so much of it was just burnt ash. So, while I’m glad I did this trek, it’s not something that I would do again. The waterfalls and crater lake alone are enough natural beauty to justify a trip to Banlung, but maybe really do research on the treks and the time of year you’re trekking beforehand.
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