Situated 588km from Phnom Penh by road, the small provincial capital of BANLUNG feels a long way from the rest of Cambodia – and indeed from anywhere else. The town sprang to prominence in 1979 when it was chosen as the new provincial capital of Rattanakiri, replacing Voen Sai. Significant development followed (and continues to this day), although Banlung hasn’t altogether shaken off its Wild West atmosphere. Most of the town’s formerly dirt tracks have now been roughly surfaced but are so indelibly stained with red dirt and mud as to resemble outback tracks, especially after rain, while the combination of local chunchiet descending on town to visit the lively market and marauding touts attempting to flog treks to the unwary add to the place’s slightly chaotic appeal. It’s also notably cooler up here than down in the lowlands (for once, hot showers are more important than air conditioning), while the town also experiences significantly more rainfall than most other places in the country.
Most people come to Banlung to trek, and there are also a number of interesting day-trips in the surrounding countryside. The town itself is pretty much devoid of attractions, bar the lively local market and the tranquil lake of Boeung Kansaing.