Good bye Siem Reap!
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At 11:30 we stop for lunch, a simple, tasty but expensive soup with rice, and as a special treat we see a Pelican behind the floating ‘restaurant’ (tourist trap :-).
But as we leave the lunch station behind, the river becomes ever smaller and shallower. We slow down more and more as the driver tries to maneuver the boat through the narrow river bends with short throttle bursts, sending clouds of black exhaust gas from the diesel engine my way. I’m realizing that I didn’t pick the best spot on board!
But it’s not getting better, on the contrary, we slow down more and more. At first, the local guys on board use an oar to push the bow back into the deeper water when we get stuck, then they have to jump in and push and on the few straights where we can pick up speed again, the boat scratches along the shallow, muddy river bed. Some of the passengers start getting really nervous, and I too start wondering how much further we can make it if the river keeps getting shallower! More than once I’m sure we have to get off the boat, but for 2 hours, we keep scrambling on. On the few straights, the driver is running the engine on full throttle to keep the boat moving even if we touch ground, and I’m really wondering what happens if we drive full speed onto a shallow we can’t get off anymore? I keep holding my camera bag, expecting the impact anytime
I had read about such engine breakdowns in the internet, but experiencing it first hand is another story.
I hear the clonking of tools behind my seat, and I want to know what’s going on, so I climb out onto the edge of the boat and take a look. Whew! Relief! It’s just the water pump, that’s full of sand, and I think this repair is not really a break down but rather a ‘standard maintenance’! Shortly afterwards we are on our way again, and it seems the hard part is behind us, as we stream is getting wider and deeper again and we move forward at good speed. But it takes 2 more hours to get to Battambang, and after 9 hours crammed into a tight space on the boat, everyone looks tired but relieved about the safe arrival!
2 days later I hear a story from a guy from Slovenia, who took the same trip the day after and was less lucky! His boat really got stuck and the people had to get off onto smaller and lighter boats to pass the shallows. But they too made it, alas taking 10 hours in total.
Anyway, I’ve arrived and I’m setting out to get dinner and explore Battambang a bit
After dinner I’m heading home on foot, and find a place to get a massage with aromatic oils, a wonderful treat after the uncomfortable boat trip. Then I head to the Riverside Night Market, famous for it’s fruit shakes. But as I get to the first stall, it seems it’s offering fried black beans instead. Only at second glance I realize that it’s not beans, but all kinds of fried bugs, frogs and snakes! Small ones, large, black and fat ones, and huge Cicadas, close to 10cm long! Later I learn that during the 70’s the starving people simply ate anything they could find, and some developed a liking for it. One town has got the nickname ‘spiderville’ for it’s deep fried giant spiders!
But I’ve had fried scorpions before and didn’t like them, so I pass this meal and head home.