Dusty Cambodia

Trip Start Nov 16, 2004
Trip End Nov 15, 2005

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Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Sunday 2 January 2005

Up early to say goodbye's to Neil & Laura who have been with us over Christmas. We won't see them now for over 10 months which seems like a long time all of a sudden.

We get a 4 hour bus from Bangkok to Aranya Prathet, the eastern Thai border town. After a short tuk-tuk journey we arrive at the border crossing. After 3 hours of painful queuing we exit Thailand and enter Cambodia. Poipet is the town on the Cambodian side and as Nial pointed out it could be confused with Toilet. Funnily enough we didn't spend too many minutes here and got a taxi to Sisophon (courtesy of 'tourism' policeman who was happy to take a cut of the $5 journey). Spent the night at a very reasonable place called Sara Torn Guesthouse for a pound each - bargain! We found a restaurant where the lady laughed when we asked for a menu. So instead, we pointed at some rice, vegetables and an egg and moments later got our first meal of the day at 7pm. Over a couple of beers we watched the semi final of the Myanmar against Singapore in the Tiger Cup - I think we will be able to watch football anywhere!

Monday 3 January 2005

We just used Sisophon as a place to stop for the night so headed towards Battambang this morning. We got a pick-up truck at 8am and myself and Cath sit on motorbikes that are strapped to the back of the truck - probably the most comfortable seats to be fair! We do the usual '2 sit down in restaurant with bags while other 2 find hotel'. Nial & Cath return after half an hour after finding 'The Royal'. It is $5 a room and very spacious with tv so easily the best room we've had so far (if only it had hot water!). Spend the afternoon walking along the river and to the nearby statue of Dom Boeng Kraw Ngum. Eat and play cards on the terrace top restaurant back at the hotel that gives great views of Battambang.

Tuesday 4 January 2005

Feel a bit dodgy this morning (why does alcohol do that?). We decide to go out on a tour of Battambang on the back of a motorbike with a guide as our driver. Really glad we did it as it was a really good day. Make our way on the dusty roads, or orange snow as my guide Jay called it, to Crocodile caves. After a short but hard walk up the mountain Jay tells us about the horrors of what the Khmer Rouge did during 1975-1979. We view the remains of skulls and bones that are now in cages having been collected in and around the caves. It is hard to comprehend something like that happening in my lifetime. Jay was born in 1975, same as me, and describes himself as a lucky baby. 2 million Cambodians were murdered or died as a result of malnutrition during the four year reign of Pol Pot, that was a quarter of the population. Jay explains that the Khmer Rouge would bring people to the mountain to kill them in numerous different ways. Sometimes by simply pushing them into the caves so they would die instantly, sometimes by beating them to death with sticks or guns, slitting throats with palm leaves. Not particularly pleasant reading or hearing, but it happened.

The afternoon is spent visiting Wat Banan built in the 11th century. It had 359 muscle-sapping steps (I counted them in between gasps for breath). Good view from the top though!

We got a bamboo train back to the outskirts of Battambang in the afternoon. During the French reign they kindly built some train track that still survives. Passenger trains crawl along only in the morning so locals make use of them in the afternoon. It consists of some bamboo on some wheels powered by a motor engine. We viewed the sunset as we headed along the track in a bemused state on this 'train'.

Spent the evening celebrating Nial's birthday. Happy birthday old man.
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