Busy day in the rice bowl!

Trip Start Sep 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 23, 2011

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Where I stayed
Asia Hotel
What I did
Bamboo train, another temple, killing cave

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Hello again!

We've finally caught up on our blog updates now and will try not to slack again!

We’re now in Battambang after what can only be described as the worst bus journey either of us have ever had (and surely ever will have though we don’t want to tempt fate!). It all got off to a bad start when the guy at our hotel got confused and ushered us on to a bus an hour earlier than he was supposed to – missed breakfast again!

No probs we thought as we’d just get to Battambang an hour earlier and surely even fragile Anna (the fainter) could manage sitting on a bus without breakfast! (it was only a 2.5 hour journey after all).

So we get on the 7.30 bus with our only concern being that we may have inadvertently occupied someone else’s seats and be asked to move.

The bus was crowded, hot and smelly and there seemed to be more babies than parents on board but our problems only began in earnest when our driver (who looked about 80) swerved across the road at very high speed and we genuinely thought the bus was going over. Fortunately it remained on all four wheels and we carried on our way. Five minutes later however, our progress ceased. The bus was pulled over and the driver was bundled (roughly by all accounts) into the back of a police car. Everyone on the bus was on their feet trying to see what was happening, only Anna and I remained in our seats, quietly panicking as us Brits do better than anyone else. 30 minutes later we started moving again with our driver back in his seat and we thought all had been resolved. Within a few minutes the bus had made a u turn and was heading back towards Siem Reap. Next thing we knew the driver pulled over again and was once again taken off somewhere out of sight by the strong arm of the law! At this point everyone (except us) got off the bus and we were left sitting there with no idea what was happening. After a while the lack of air con took its toll and we got off to have a good old rubber neck at what was going on.

We approached the only guy who looked as though he could speak any English and asked if he had any idea what had happened. It turned out that our driver had driven through a police check a little too fast, taken out a bunch of traffic cones and incurred the wrath of the Cambodian police (something we had already heard bad rumours about!). After over an hour of waiting the driver was returned to the bus and we set off at long last. Ten minutes later the driver actually had the nerve to stop and get himself something to eat and drink! He continued to pull over every 10 – 15 minutes to pick up random passengers on the side of the road. The soundtrack to our remaining journey was provided by Khmer music videos being played at an earsplitting volume. 5 and half hours later we arrived in Battambang tired, hungry and a little cranky to say the least! Luckily our hotel was a stone’s throw from the bus station and we could just retreat to the relative sanctuary of our room.

Day 2

We had a busy day seeing the sights of Battambang. First up was the bamboo train. It is probably just easiest if you look at the video of this as we’re not sure how to best describe it. This railway line has been in use since 1927 and is set to be replaced in the next couple of years so this form of rural transportation and ingenuity will soon be extinct so we felt lucky to be able to try it out. We expected a gentle, slow train ride through the beautiful countryside given that we were just perched on a bamboo platform. See the video for the reality!

The train took us to a small village where we were able to have a drink whilst being entertained by numerous children making jewelry out of grass. There was also a woman there (Bo) who was very sweet and made grasshoppers out of the same grass (you can see them in the video she made!). She asked Anna how old she was and described how at 23 she was married and by 26 had three kids and laughed at the look on both our faces at the prospect! She seemed to particularly like the video camera and when we showed her how to make a video there was no stopping her!

We were there for about an hour and gently reminded our driver that we needed to go back (he was quite happily playing with the kids, kicking back in a hammock!).

Next stop was a temple! Great! Just Wat (haha) we wanted after two days at Angkor, this particular temple had the added bonus of being up some 350 steep steps. We reluctantly trudged to the top and had a look around. The view was amazing but the signs informing us of the presence of mines in the area were a little unnerving so we didn’t hang around too long!

We then made our way over (by tuk tuk) to a Khmer Rouge killing cave in the side of a mountain. This was an incredibly sad place as apparently some 10,000 people lost their lives there. It was so quiet it became quite unpleasant (not to mention the huge pile of skulls and skeletal remains). It didn’t feel right to take any photos so we don’t have any but we did take some of the view which was stunning. It was our first real reminder of what happened here only 36 years ago and we continue to be amazed by how well and how quickly the whole country and its people have recovered and moved on.

We called it a day after that and travelled back to our hotel for some food and an early night.

Day 3

We have found a small ethically run café a short walk away (the sort of thing you’d get in the lanes in Brighton) called the Eden Café. They serve great food and the best coffee we’ve had since getting here and we plan on spending some time there today with our books after catching up on our blog duties! We’ve booked our bus to Phnom Penh for tomorrow morning where we will spend one night before a week on a small island just off the coast which we are really looking forward to. No updates that week as the place doesn’t have a computer let alone the internet but we will fill you all in when we get back to the city.

That’s all for now (this is the noisiest internet café in the world and small kids keep peeking their heads into our booth to see what we’re doing – cheeky!)

Miss you all so much and can’t wait to see you very soon

Lots of love

Anna and Sam xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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