Up the Lazy River

Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
Trip End Feb 28, 2013

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Flag of Cambodia  , Khétt Siĕm Réab,
Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12, 2012

Battambang Cambodia to Siem Reap Cambodia on the Sangker River & Tonie Sap Lake
Our boat docked 18 km southwest of Siem Reap
7:06 to 2:30 (7.5 hours on the boat)

The owner of the hotel handed us a bunch of bananas before driving us the kilometer to the boat ramp. We were able to board the narrow boat immediately. The tourists board first so they can take the preferred spots up-front away from the fumes and din of the engine. Cambodians follow last at a reduced cost. The Cambodians typically are going just part way to their villages along the river that cannot be accessed by bus. Few Cambodians would take the boat from Battambang to Siem Reap because the bus is faster, cheaper, and more comfortable.

I was reassured to see life jackets hanging from the ceiling. And the bench seating along the shaded edges of the boat had cushions. Another plus since it was going to be a 7+hr trip. We scored spots near the front, next to a couple from Belgium. They quit their jobs 8 months ago, she worked in a bank and he in IT, and started traveling. They have funds for a few more months and are exploring ways of working in Australia or somewhere else along the way before returning to Belgium. I told them it is a good test of a relationship to travel like they have been. And that it is great to do it before kids come along. Judging from the Swiss family of four, also on the boat with us, kids don't have to prevent traveling to undeveloped places like Cambodia. And that makes for great family bonding and educational experiences for the kids and adults alike.
We pushed off at 7:06AM. The temperature was pleasant, a bit overcast, and we felt a cooling breeze, aided by the speed of the boat. Our places near the front were extra airy.

The trip took 7.5 hours and was very scenic, interesting and disturbing. The river varied from being narrow where the boat had  trouble making it around a bend to wide expanses. We were slowed only in few shallow spots. Our speed was limited by the size of the wake the captain was willing create. There are so many small canoe size boats and low floating structures at the water’s edge, it would be dangerous and rude to send too big of a wake.

The people of the river live off fish they catch or process. Most people are extremely poor and live on shanty boats or shelters on the shore that are tantamount to camping. Many shacks are fashioned out of remnants of metal, plastic, fabric and wood. We'd see fishermen and fisherwomen set their nets and retrieve nets. Many houses along the way are perched on stilts, some as high as 8 meters / 8 yards. Life is tough for these people as they live to the rhythms and whims of the river. And yet, they are ready with big smiles and the children, even the smallest ones, wave enthusiastically as we motored by.

We reached the dock to discover we still had to drive 18 km on to Siem Reap. A motorbike-tuk-tuk driver met us holding a sign with our names on it. Transfer into the city was included in our fare. It was a very pretty ride and we asked the driver to stop so we could take in the sights of miles and miles of lotus fields lining the road. Gorgeous.

We passed the night market area of Siem Reap about a kilometer from our selected hotel. While that hotel was okay, we decided we’d prefer to be nearer the night market area. The driver had a recommendation, the Siem Reap Temple Villa. It was still a bit from the market but still within easy walking distance. We arrived and saw many others from on our boat were also taken to this hotel. It must pay the highest kick-backs to the drivers. The hotel looked nice and, at $15 for an aircon room, it seemed like a bargain. However, staff were very indifferent bordering on rude. We began to have doubts about the place. We were tired and ready to settle in and we checked into our room. We discovered the wifi did not reach the room after all and our room was not as clean as we would have liked. We decided to find another hotel when we went out for dinner and move in the morning.
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