In December 2017, I was fortunate to be a part of a 5-member team of Adobe Employees who traveled to Cambodia to work with Care Cambodia on a CSR Initiative that Adobe had organized with the help of Team4Tech. We landed in Cambodia on 3rd December and had been on our toes for 6 days without a real break. It was then, on Friday evening, that we were rewarded with a half-day at the Yeak Laom Lake.
The almost perfectly round Yeak Laom occupies a 4000-year-old volcanic crater and is located at about 5 Kilometres from Banlung, which is the capital of the Ratnakiri Province of Cambodia. The lake is about 0.5 miles in diameter and is 157 ft deep at places. As per legends, the tremendous depth of the lake is home to a mythical monster.
Six of us - 5 volunteers (Astha, Danielle, Nidhi, Ty, and myself) and 1 project manager (Martin) - reached the lake at around 3pm and went on to occupy one of the many huts that have been built around the lake. One can rent these huts for a few hours and also order food if one so wishes. Hammocks are strung on all sides of the huts for tourists to catch a shut eye or read a book.
Martin started reading and very kindly offered to keep an eye on our bags while we went around and did whatever we wanted to do. In terms of physical activities, there were two options to choose from. You could either walk the trail that runs along the circumference of the lake or go for a swim. The trail is 2.5 kilometers long and a walk around the lakes takes about 40 minutes. Three of us - Nidhi, Ty, and me - opted for the walk.
I have read at many places that the rainforest that surrounds the lake is home to many exotic bird species and butterflies, but we were out of luck in this aspect. During the entire walk, I spotted only one sunbird. The wild pigs and large butterflies remained elusive. And, of course, the monster didn't make an appearance.
May be because the Lake sees considerable human footfall and this was the dry season, the rain forest too did not look as lush as some blogs lead you to expect. What did keep us company was the constant croaking of frogs and the song of Cicadas that sounded amazingly like the chiming of temple bells.
Danielle, who is an excellent swimmer, jumped right into the lake and Astha, with a life jacket, followed soon after. Once we were back from our walk, Nidhi too decided to jump in even though she doesn't know how to swim at all. Thankfully the life jackets worked well and Astha and Nidhi were able to float around peacefully for quite some time.
This was what we did till Martin came to the platform on the Lake and insisted that we get out of the Lake and get dressed. He had cause for worry because the sun was already setting and it would be dark soon. And in the dark, not only was there a bigger possibility of us ending up inside the stomach of a hungry monster, but also an increased risk of us falling prey to smaller monsters - the mosquitoes. Ty had already been bitten thrice during the walk.
Nevertheless, we managed to hang around for some more time soaking in the brilliant sunset, aware that we wouldn't have any break for the next 6 days. This short trip had given us the much-needed recharge. And even though we wished that the break was longer, we cherished every moment of it. We were decidedly less grumpy for the next couple of days.
The brilliant sunset is still fresh in my mind today, almost a month after the visit. There was something calming about the lake. It could have been its symmetry, or may be its clear waters, or may be the relative silence of human sounds. The place is definitely worth a visit if you are headed to Banlung, which may be unlikely since Banlung is not really a tourist place.