Existing Member?

The Complete Travel Journals Travelling for the easily frightened

Cambodia Day 3: Battambang

CAMBODIA | Wednesday, 14 February 2007 | Views [1154]

Another early start to the day. We met at the lobby of our guesthouse at 6.30 am. A bus was supposed to come and pick us up at 6.40 to take us to the bus terminal, where we would take another bus at 7.30 to Battambang.

But that first bus came only at 7.10. It was tiny and didn't have a trunk or underside compartment where we could store our luggage. Everyone and everything was squeezed into its cramped, dirty inside. Just sitting on the bus left a huge sand stain on my new cargo pants. Worse, the bus went on to pick up more and more people on the way to the terminal.

We reached the terminal at 7.40. Thankfully we had not missed our ride to Battambang. That one left at 8.

The ride was supposed to be 3 to 5 hours long. It took about 7.

The bus was supposed to be air-conditioned. The air-conditioning was spoilt and all the windows were shut. Ventilation came from a small opening in the ceiling, and narrow slats under our windows that we could open. With the wind came thick brown dust that flew into our eyes and noses and coated our faces.

By the time we got to the lunch stop at 11.30, any piece of tissue paper we dragged over our faces came away brown. Our hair felt like straw. Our noses were plugged with dirt. See how fucking miserable we were:

Being a monopoly in the area, the pit stop restaurant charged exorbitant prices for shitty food. Well my plate of fried noodles was not bad but everyone else's fried rice was basically steamed rice coated in oil. Their coffee was terrible.

Throughout the ride I slept and woke up, slept and woke up. When I was awake I would look out at the crappy-looking towns that we passed by and think, "Please don't let this be Battambang or I'll cry."

The passengers on the bus were mostly locals. Now I don't know how to say this without sounding like I'm making a sweeping statement about all Cambodians... but... some Cambodians... are rather... unhygienic.

The streets of Siem Reap were dominated with litter. A couple of times, when we gave sweets to kids inside the temples, they'd just discard the wrappers on the floor of the temples. When we went to Kirirom National Park on Day 5, the area within a 1-metre radius of a sign saying "Please throw litter into the bins provided" was completely covered with... litter.

But back to the bus. At the beginning of the ride, the bus was relatively clean. A bit run down and the worse for wear, but clean. By the end of the trip, the aisle was covered in unknown liquids, drink cans, corn cobs, bits of bread and other discarded food items.

Throughout the ride we were also help captive by the sight of a cute little Cambodian kid who was eating corn on the cob. He'd rub it on his feet, then eat. Rub it on the windows, then eat. Then he moved on to sticky rice. He'd rub it on the chairs, then eat. Then he started kissing the greasy, dusty windows.

After the pit stop I noticed that he was no longer wearing any pants. This was a common sight among Cambodian kids -- if they're boys, they're often left running around without pants (or underwear). If they're girls, they go around topless.

It was a thoroughly exhausting ride and obviously went on for much longer than it was supposed to. Towards the end of the ride, Lianyi and I amused ourselves by listening to my iPod and dancing.

Finally, the bus stopped. We had no idea where we were, but we saw the other tourists on the bus take down their bags from the overhead compartment so we did the same too. I asked a Nordic guy who was standing before me, "Is this it?"

With a look of resignation on his face, he replied, "I don't know. It doesn't matter."

As a consolation, we told ourselves that this bus ride meant that we were truly hardcore.

When we got off the bus we were bombarded with a horde of transportation drivers offering us rides. We agreed to one of them, a van driver who was offering a free ride to the Chhaya Hotel, which was recommended by Lonely Planet.

At the Chhaya Hotel we got our rooms and immediately showered our brown, sticky, dusty bodies. My room was spartan but nice. It wasn't as pretty as our rooms at the Western-run Rosy Guesthouse, but the beds were cleaner and came with bolster pillows.

I'm generally not a big fan of white lights. Since it was still daytime, I asked Lianyi to switch off the lights. Once he did that we burst out laughing.

"This looks really porn," he said.
"I feel like I'm back at home... in Geylang," I said.

Our room looked like what you might imagine a room in a cheap brothel to look like. White ceramic tiles on the wall, one closet with a couple of hangers, one old TV set. And thanks to the red curtains, everything was washed in red. Later, when we walked to our friends' rooms, I got a peek into some of the other rooms in the huge hostel, and I realised we really got a good deal. Some of the other rooms looked like wards in a prison hospital.

And then the five of us had a meeting in my room, to discuss a rearrangement of our itinerary.

After that bus ride from hell, none of us wanted to take any more bus rides than necessary. In our original plan, we would take a bus rise to Phnom Penh the very next day, and then another bus ride to Kampot the day after.

A bus to Phnom Penh was necessary, since we were flying out of there to get home. But Kampot was dispensible. We had to cut out Kampot.

We finally decided that instead of going to Bokor National Park in Kampot like we had wanted, we'd go to Kirirom, which is just outside Phnom Penh.

That problem solved, we went out to take a look at Battambang. It's a nice charming town with a lot of colonial buildings. It was still a city with crazy traffic and pollution and dirty streets, but it wasn't half as mad as Phnom Penh, as we would later find out.

After walking around we ended up at Smokin' Pot for dinner. What a pleasant surprise --not only was the food delicious, we only paid about US$2 each for the meal. The only letdown to the meal was the tom yam soup -- we asked for it to be medium spicy and it turned out to be Super Fucking Die You Westerners Die!!!!!11~~~ spicy.

Farah and I ordered coconut shakes this time around, after tasting how wonderful Lianyi and Uma's coconut shakes were at Angkor the day before. They were good, but sadly not as good as the Angkor ones. I think Uma won the shake battle at Smokin' Pot with her mango concoction.

During dinner we talked about our psychotic fears. Little idiosyncracies that we had that few people knew about. Things that might make you think we were complete psychos.

For example, I hate hotel toilets. Sometimes, I retch when I am in them. Thinking about them stops me from sleeping. Lianyi cannot wear new clothes until they are "ready." Farah fears speaking on the telephone and goes to pieces when she has to answer a call. Uma imagines certain people killing her simply by sitting on her face.

All of us shared our psychoses. All of us, that is, except Soo Hian, whose fears are completely lame-ass:

Me: What about you -- what are you afraid of?
SH: Uh... I don't like people hearing me shit.
Lianyi: What the fuck? Nobody likes that! That's normal!
Me: You might as well say, "I'm scared of tigers."
Uma: Or landmines. "I fear landmines."
Me: Yeah, so we can ask, "Oh but why landmines?!"
Uma: "Was your fear of landmines prompted by something that happened in your life?"
Me: "So how do you feel when you think about landmines?"
SH: Ok ok... I don't like sleeping in rooms that are not my own bedroom.
After the meal Uma went back to her room and the remaining four of us went to what seemed like the only restaurant in Battambang that was still open -- a bubble tea cafe called BT Cat. Farah took a lot of photos of the menu, which had many, many weird items in it, such as "tea with coffee smell".

Bubble Tea is big in Cambodia, and it seems to be an upper middle class kind of drink, not a mass market product like it is here. It's only served in air-conditioned restaurants with closed doors and big seats. And the restaurants that serve bubble tea will have it as part of their name, like "BT Cat" or "Bubble Tea Lounge", or else proclaim it loudly at their entrance posters. Being able to afford bubble tea is a status symbol there. A glass of bubble tea (and they always come in nice tall glasses, with a straw and a stirrer) would usually cost about US$1.50.

So at BT Cat I had a boring old chocolate milk tea. Lianyi and Farah had this drink called a snow-something. Soo Hian also had milk tea but I can't recall what flavour (or smell). In any case, we didn't compete drinks. I think it was a tie for all.

We left the cafe sometime after 9 and went back to our rooms. It was bedtime soon after that -- another long bus ride awaited us the next morning! 

Tags: battambang, bus ride, cambodia

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.

About cisoux

Follow Me

Where I've been

Photo Galleries

My trip journals

See all my tags 



Travel Answers about Cambodia

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.