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Al's epic odyssey "A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." - Lao Tzu

Battembang and back

CAMBODIA | Thursday, 8 October 2009 | Views [486] | Comments [1]

Battambang is the second largest city in Cambodia and not at all tourist orientated. It’s such a pleasure to not be hounded for massage, tuk-tuk, motorcycle etc. Walking around town I actually get stared at. Either because I’m so devilishly handsome or they have seldom seen such a scruffy foreigner. I’ve been struggling to find someone to give me a shave for nearly a week now. The barber that I went to in Siem Reap closed up shop when it got flooded.

 

I arrived on the final day of the water festival. Thousands of people have turned up to watch the boat races on the river and there are hundreds of stalls selling all manner of things. The boats seem to come in three sizes. The smallest is about a 12 seater, the next size is about a 22 seater and then the large ones seem to vary between 54 and 64 seats. I say seats, but half the crew stand. The paddlers in the front half sit and paddle furiously. The back half stand with the 3rd quarter also paddling furiously at the same pace as the seated paddlers and the rear quarter stand and paddle at a half pace, every second stroke of the front ¾ of the boat. The two guys in the rear seem to paddle and steer as needed.

 

In the evening the crowd quadrupled as all the working folk and rural folk came in to join in the celebrations. As one of the very few westerners in town I managed to attract a lot of stares from the rural kids who don’t get to see too many foreigners. After dark the river was lit by floating candles that people had bought to give thanks. Fittingly for a water festival there was a fine downpour at the end of the evening.

 

The following day I took a guided motorbike tour of some of the countryside:-

 

First stop was to a place that is now known as “The Killing Cave”, where the Khmer Rouge threw opponents down an opening into a cave where they died, if they were not already dead. There is a shrine with a dying Buddha and containers of human bones and sculls recovered from the cave.

 

The next stop was another Ankgorian Temple built on the top of a steep hill. My knees were wobbly after simply climbing the stairs to the top, I can’t imagine how they managed to haul the massive sandstone slabs to the top to build the temple.

 

The final treat was a ride on the Bamboo Train. This is tricky to describe, probably best to have a look at the facebook photos (see link at the end). It is a bamboo board about 4m x 2m resting on two rail axels and powered by a small petrol motor. It is assembled when you get there and if another train is coming in the opposite direction, it would be dis-assembled and re-assembled on the spot. I was given the VIP seat, which consisted of two cushions. It’s a rough ride, so the cushions were handy. Thundering along the Cambodian countryside on wonky rails at 20 km/hr a few inches off the ground can be quite exhilarating.

 

Travelling through the backstreets of rural Cambodia was an experience in itself. People have very simple lifestyles. The primary crop in that area is rice, but interspersed with small fruit plantations on the less soggy ground. There was even a vineyard with grapes growing which surprised me.

 

The second night back in Battambang was a complete contrast to the first. The streets were absolutely deserted. It’s time to move on - back to Phnom Penh for a couple of nights and then on to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam.

Facebook photo's : http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=328711&id=744675149&l=464afe04d4

Tags: battembang

 

Comments

1

Devilishly handsome!

Don't know if you're getting much feedback on your travel journal but I love it so don't stop!! xxx

  Freda Oct 19, 2009 5:46 AM

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