A trip to remote Banlung in Cambodia – Formerly controlled by the Khmer Rouge.
This was the track. Almost pitch dark at night, no lighting, no expectations on our part, but much trepidation.
We got off the bus in Banlung, in remote north-eastern Cambodia, at nightfall. We then walked a long way through this busy and slightly intimidating town at dusk, looking for somewhere to stay, and it wasn’t looking good.
We were then directed down a pitch-dark dirt path lined with rudimentary shops and stalls made from teak and bamboo. There was no street lighting but plenty of aggressively barking dogs and it looked like we were on a path leading us well out of town.
With some trepidation we ventured down it and, after a few minutes, our bravery paid off, as we discovered the fantastic Treetop Eco-Lodge.
Leaving aside the irony that this ‘Eco-Lodge” is more “Un-eco Logged“, as it’s constructed almost entirely of solid teak, cut from the now-disappeared jungle, it consisted of nicely fitted-out teak cottages, faced with bamboo, linked by teak walkways, meandering through rich Cambodian foliage, perched on the side of a steep valley, a little way out of town.
And the cost? TWELVE dollars a night!
Mind you, we’re far from anywhere, except the Vietnamese border, in a town that is frequently cut off in the rainy season as the dirt roads leading to it become impassable rivers of thick, muddy water.
Luckily it was the dry season, and we planned to do a lot of travelling into the tri-border jungle, along the Sihanouk Trail and up to the Vietnamese border, looking for indigenous tribes, dense jungle, and, more soberly, visiting as many Khmer Rouge sites as we can, as this was their power base before they took control of Cambodia in 1975.
Banlung is also the illegal logging capital of Cambodia, which I’ll deal with in subsequent posts.
But the main reason we’re here is because Banlung is the capital of Ratanakiri Province, which plays such a crucial role in my novel, BACK, both in 1968 when a Special Forces mission goes wrong, and in the modern day, when backpackers enter the jungle looking for something that was left behind from the Vietnam War.
See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
For POWs left behind in Laos, see:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
BACK Parts 1 and 2:
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