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Pomtie Tales Follow the adventures of a Pommie and a Soutie, travelling the world.

Cambodia - Battambang

CAMBODIA | Thursday, 9 October 2014 | Views [377]

On Friday night we got on the overnight bus for a 10 hour drive to Battambang. In Vietnam, the sleeper buses were great - individual beds, in 3 rows. The cambodian ones are not that great. They have double sleepers, which are only a LITTLE bigger than the vietnam ones. Robin and I squeezed ourselves in, and had to take turns, with one person on their back, one on their side. The vietnamese buses were also pretty safe. If there was an empty bed, you could put your stuff on it without really worrying. These ones, not so much. We were really uncomfortable with our valuables in the bed too. I wasn't feeling so well, so I decided to pop a valium to help me sleep through. I passed out, and was in dreamland, when the bus driver came and woke us up and told us to go to the toilet. This was the only stop for the rest of the journey (we had only been driving for 2 hours). Part of me wanted to just go back to sleep, but I was worried I would wet myself, so I got up and zombie-marched to the toilet. During this stop, one of the girls a few beds down from us found out that someone had stolen her phone and money. She then started patting down all non-whites. It was so racist, and put us on edge. The following couple of hours (I couldn't get back to sleep after my valium haze had worn off) she walked up and down the bus, waking people, and shining her torch in peoples faces.

A couple of hours later the bus stopped again. No one knew what was going on, and when we got off, our bags had been pulled out from the bottom of the bus and thrown uncerimoniously in a puddle of mud. We found out that we had to change buses, and were put on a new bus, in the back bunk. It was so big and spacious, but the heat from the engine came up between the mattress and the back window, and it felt like we were in a sauna. Another thing that was worrying was that everyone seemed to be going to different places. We were on our way to Battambang, but some people were going to Ho Chi Minh, and some were going to Bangkok. At one of the stops (none were announced) we started to get nervous, and luckily we asked them, because we found out that we were at Battambang station. We could easily have found ourselves at the Bangkok border! We got out and were pounced on again by tuk tuk drivers. We found an awesome one who said he would take us anywhere we wanted to go for 50 cents. He took us to our hotel, and we made a plan for him to pick us up the next day for a tour of all the sights (that's how they make their money I guess).

Our hotel was really nice, but it was WAY out of town, and no-one spoke ANY English, so it was really tough to figure out where to go. We walked into town and got some lunch and looked around. While we were there, we also booked a different place for the next night, one that was in a better location. We had dinner and headed back to our hotel for some rest before the tour the next day.

 

At 10am the tuk tuk driver came to fetch us. I was feeling HORRIBLE though, so we asked him to take us to our new hotel, and postponed the tour for the next day. For most of the day I slept and tried to get better. Rob went out and watched some rugby. He ended up meeting a really nice Australian guy named Mick. Later, Rob came to fetch me, and we went out for a while and met up with Mick and his wife Deb. They were really good company, and it was one of the best nights. We went for dinner and this old lady walked up to the table and Mick said, under his breath, "Oh, not you again". She was also Australian, but as crazy as they come. She sat with us the entire time, and spoke the biggest load of crap. She asked Robin if he is Arab because he looks like one apparently. When he told her that he definitely isn't, she said she just found out she is Jewish. She then went on to say that the Roman emporers were all Jews, and that Jews rule the Illuminati. Sha also said that London is a sovereign state and the Queen has to ask permission to enter. We told her she was talking rubbish and she told me to google it. I got out my phone and googled. Google came back with "no search results". I showed her, and she replied "Yeah, mine sometimes does that too. It's the CIA trying to prevent you from knowing the truth". HAHAHAHAAAA! She then asked where I am from, I told her South Africa, and she said "Oh so you're a bloody racist then?" Deb and I just stared at her, with open mouths, until she said "I'm joking" and changed the subject. I still giggle about this crazy lady and her conspiracy theories.

 

The next morning, our trusty driver was there to pick us up and we headed out for the day. The first stop was a crocodile farm. The driver came in with us and explained everything in perfect English. He was great. We saw all the crocs, and then went to the "nursery" (buckets with baby crocs) and got to hold baby crocodiles. It was really fun! We were really impressed by our tuk tuk driver, and that made the day even better.

We then went to the bamboo train. It was $5 a person, and they told us it was a 30 minute ride in each direction. It turned out that it was ten mins, but it was a lot of fun. It's basically a flat piece of bamboo with a lawnmower engine attached to it, and it runs on two sets of wheels which look like bar bells. It goes quite fast, and at one point, Robin and I both had white knuckles. Halfway to the turnaround point, some other trains headed down towards us, and it was quite funny, because we stopped and picked up the bamboo, and the wheels, and moved to the side of the tracks, then re-assembled the train once they had passed. One of the things that was a bit of a shame was that the bushes on either side of the tracks were so built up, that we couldn't really see anything except the track ahead of us, and the occassional glimpse of the countryside which was beautiful. We got to the turn around point, and it was a tourist trap. This one shopkeeper told us we had better come into her shack, because it was going to rain. We kind of ignored her, as we weren't interested in buying souvenirs. Then the heavens opened up. It was a typical Asian monsoon rainstorm. Suddenly it was bucketing down, and we found ourself stuck in this woman's shop, with her asking us to buy every single thing under the sun. After about 10 minutes, the rain stopped as quickly as it had started, and we left, having spent all of our small cash on a statuette that Robin was really taken with. We headed back to the start point, and as soon as we got there, before the train had even stopped, a guy came up and said "Did you like it? Tip your driver! Tip!" Then all the drivers started chaznting for us to tip. Since the smallest note we had was a 50 dollar bill, we got sworn at and cursed with any bad things Buddha could possibly do to us, all the way to our tuktuk. I think the South East Asian countries see foreigners, and hear "Cha ching". I think that is probably the only thing I have not enjoyed... Second only to the crazy tuk tuk drivers pouncing on us.

Next, our tuk tuk driver took us on an awesome roundabout route through rice paddies, fishing villages (here he said "The people in the fishing villages are all Muslim, obviously, because they are good fishermen" ~ we are still trying to figure it out), and fields. The views were spectacular. He also stopped at a little market, and pointed out a couple of trees, absolutely brimming with bats. There were so many bats that the trees looked like they had huge black fruit hanging from the branches. They were really big fruit bats, and it was impressive to see. From there we headed out along bumpy dirt roads, and saw this magnificent temple on a hilltop in the distance. We were still saying how awesome it would be to go up there, when we started heading in that direction. We got to the base of the mountain and had some lunch. The tuktuk driver then explained the temple and the history to us, and told us that we could either go up the mountain by foot, or by motorbike. Both he and the restaurant owner told us that it's more impressive to walk, and that we are strong and young enough to do it. We set off up this mountain. Boy, was it a tough walk! I think it was made harder by the fact that it was about 35 degrees, with a humidity of 80%. We made it to the killing caves, out of breath, and absolutely DRIPPING with sweat. As we walked in, an old man screamed, and these boys came running. They then told us to follow them and they would show us around. Thank goodness I had researched these caves on tripadvisor the night before, because they are a huge scam. They show you where to go and then demand money. We told them to go away, that we were fine, and they tried their luck asking for a tip anyway, even though they hadn't done anything. "Cha ching!!!" We headed down into the killing cave. During the Khmer rouge era, the temple had been taken over, and the cave, which was usually used for prayer and for amplifying the sound of the Buddhist drums and gongs, was turned into a slaughterhouse. There was a huge golden reclining Buddha, flanked by two shrines, filled with skulls and bones of the victims. We then climbed further up the mountain and got to the huge golden temple we had seen from the road. An added bonus for Robin was that there were wild monkeys. He got really excited, I got really nervous (in case you didn't know, there was an incident when I was young where I tried to steal a monkey baby, because my godmom said she would love one, and then I almost got eaten by a troop of wild monkeys. I am still traumatised!!!!). There was a concessions stand, and we debated getting an ice cream. While we were standing there, 4 Cambodian guys came up the steps, eating ice creams. All of a sudden, the monkeys started chasing them, and the four grown men ran away screaming. Evntually they got boxed in, and had to throw their ice creams at the monkeys, to get away! No ice-cream for me, thank you very much! On the way back down the mountain, there was a man selling bananas, and Robin bought a bunch and fed the monkeys. I did NOT partake, and hid in the corner instead! Damn monkeys! Eventually, after about 2 hours, we made it back to the tuk tuk, and our driver took one look at us, and said, "Oh my god, was it raining up there???" We were DRENCHED with sweat. It was really disgusting, and made for a FREEZING ride back into town!

 

Battambang was one of our favourite towns. It was really relaxed, and a great atmosphere. We rested and relaxed, but also saw some cool things along the way. We could easily have spent more time there, but it was time to head off, and we booked ourselves tickets on the boat from Battambang to Siem Reap for the next morning.

 

Tags: battambang, crocodile farm, killing caves, monkeys, temples

 

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