Photo: Banlung's crater lake in the late afternoon.

Eat and meet

Eating in Ban Lung is better than expected, though many choose to go no further than their guesthouse. In dry season, most meals come with a complimentary serving of red dust.

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If Tree Top is the new unparalleled place to stay in town, Gecko House (T: (012) 422 228) is its dining counterpart. This is one of those rare restaurants with aesthetics that appeal to foreigners (not a bathroom tile or television in sight) but is full of Cambodian customers. Inside this thatched roof building are hanging plants and bamboo furniture over a pebble-strewn floor. The scents coming from the open kitchen are intoxicating. The Khmer dishes are fantastic -- we enjoyed a ginger fried rice dish and beef stir-fried with pepper -- though Western meals, including pizzas with a wide range of toppings and $2 burgers sounded satisfying too. Recommended.

On the same road as Tree Top, A Dam (T: (012) 411 115) is popular among local NGO workers, perhaps because of its pool table. The restaurant has the same great view out the back as the two hotels, and serves an assortment of Asian, Western, and vegetarian food. Closed for breakfast but open late.

Back in town, on the corner of the town's central roundabout and diagonal from Ratanak Hotel, you'll find the Labansiek Restaurant and wonder what this place is and whether it's any good. In a hideous setting inside a giant, decaying reception hall with enormous wooden tables, it looked like we were the first customers to stop by in several weeks. Despite this, the basic Khmer dishes we ordered tasted fresh and were just fine. It has a second location, with a garden and far nicer atmosphere, on the side street west of Tribal Hotel.

The American Restaurant used to be the restaurant of choice for Ban Lung's aid workers but has seen far better days. While the salads are decent beware of the calzone which is barely edible. Cobweb-hung ornate wooden chairs are nicely complemented by an array of plastic flowers. The place is allegedly still open, we're told by locals, but each time we visited, there was no staffer in sight to serve us. It was probably a cool place back in the day, but now it just looks tired.

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Banlung? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Cambodia.

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