A Walk to the Yeak Laom Lake

Yeak Laom lake near Banlung, Cambodia

Yeak Laom lake near Banlung, Cambodia

In Laos I got scammed on yet another bus ride, this time from Don Det to Banlung in Cambodia. Although I knew there was no direct bus to the small town, I purchased a ticket that should have allowed me to transfer from the Phnom Penh-bound bus in Stung Trung. Long story short, I was dropped off in the pouring rain at a small service station in essentially the middle of nowhere – no bus station or information office to be found. When I asked about a connecting bus to Banlung the locals just kind of laughed and told me to have some tea. Apparently I’m not the first sucker they’ve seen. I did finally manage to get a shared taxi for $5 and arrived at Banlung’s town center just before sundown and got a good night’s sleep at a guesthouse.

The next day I set off for the main attraction in Banlung: the Yeak Laom lake. It’s located just about 5km outside of town and it’s a fairly pleasant walk. It’s a volcanic crater lake and it considered sacred by the locals, and the water is very clear and is used by many for bathing and swimming. There’s a walking path that circles the lake and as you get further from the entrance, the more secluded and quiet it gets.

Tour of Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island

A floating fishing village at Ha Long Bay

A floating fishing village at Ha Long Bay

I was going to skip Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba since I had seen similar scenery in Tam Coc and also was spending more time and money in Vietnam that I had anticipated. However, I had spoken to several people who said that it was a sight not to be missed, so I booked a tour from Ninh Binh for two nights. Unfortunately, I got scammed. I was sold a mid-range tour and instead ended up on an extremely low-budget boat, had to share a room when I had booked a single, and was served inedible food. The people on my boat who had paid less than half what I did were not terribly upset, but as I realized what happened I got very frustrated. To make matters worse, the “guide” on my boat was extraordinarily unhelpful and unsympathetic.

Scams and bad tour experience aside, I did mostly enjoy visiting the Ha Long Bay area. It’s a UNESCO site and has some impressive limestone cliffs and caves, and hiking on Cat Ba was a fun morning. Unfortunately the site is not well taken care of and it’s highly polluted with tons of rubbish. The boats are very unsafe to boot. Hopefully UNESCO can step in and clean up the area before it’s too far gone.

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