Alternative ways to travel in Cambodia.
Trip Start Jul 24, 2009
17Trip End Jun 30, 2010
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I left Siem Reap by boat down the Tonle Sap river and to Battambang (bloody boring place and the scene of my ipod crisis) with no snakes in sight. On Monday morning had to leave my guesthouse at 6am to get the minivan which took you me the boat. Reminded me of when I used to work then I remembered I am now officially unemployed, had a small panic then smiled to myself :)
Anyway, arrived at the small dock and we were sabotaged by sellers offering us bottles of water and a frenchie which got me alarmed at first until I saw the small baguettes on their trays and relaxed, 2 please! As well as the sellers there were a lot of men near the boat who, before our arrival, were doing not a lot. As our minivan stopped, doors were opened, bags grabbed and they were off. Followed my bag onto the boat and found a decent seat, It was then that I felt the looming presence of a Cambodian man near my precious seat
The Tonlé Sap is unusual for two reasons: 1) its flow changes direction
twice a year, and 2) the portion that forms the lake expands and
shrinks dramatically with the seasons. From November to May, Cambodia's
dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, when the year's heavy rains begin in June, the Tonlé Sap backs up to form an enormous lake. (copied that from Wikipedia!). There are over 5000 people living on the river and 1300 boats. As we drove past we little villages which had schools, shops, police stations and even a pig! There is literally no land for hours and all they daily lives are conducted on water
Arrived in Battambang and initial impressions was that there was not much to do and they were right. I wasn't planning on going out the flowing day but felt I really had to! Hired a motor and driver and visited a Wat in the top of the hill which had the killing caves there as well. They are pretty self explanatory but it is one of many sights where the Khmer Rouge killed people by throwing them down are dark cave.I seemed to be the only person making the trek up there and I certainly got spooked out as I tiptoes down some ornate steps to be greeted by a display case of bones and a nun lighting incense. Politely paid my respects and then quickly tiptoed back out to carry on my walk to the temple.
The Cambodian sun is fierce and I am developing a tan to rival any farmer. Needless to say the walk up to the temple was a sweaty one but worth it as it was beautiful as the sun shone on the coloured tiles and gold statues. Not wanting to sound old but hey, I'm putting this out there, the view was superb. I hope the pictures do it justice, I tried to take an arty panoramic shot but it look dire so quickly erased it! There are certain rules regarding women and monks so I wasn't sure if I should have engaged in conversation with this one particularly friendly monk who came over, he seemed ok with it so I stopped worrying
Now for the best part of my day, the bamboo train. This was hilarious and so much fun. Basically it is a small engine in a bamboo mat with wheels and the local people use it for getting them and their stuff from A-B. Some nearby villages have no road access so this train acts as an important part of their daily lives and a tourist sight. There is only one track so if you are bombing along and you meet an other train you have to quickly get off, dismantle the train and get back on again! All good fun and it's good seeing the money you hand over go directly to the guys that run it.
All in all hand a better time in Battambang than I had anticipated but 1 full day is all you need. Although the initial warmth I felt towards this place quickly faded as I entered the dark period of my travels
Brooks' final thought - Cambodia was different to what I had expected and in some ways I'm not sure it met them my high expectations. The great surprises have been the beautiful countryside, the friendly people, horse riding and seeing the temples. But as I write this it becomes apparent that the only real let has been the litter that is everywhere and the way that you are hassled in the main cities/towns by either beggars/hawkers/tuk tuk drivers or street children. I read an article yesterday that the head of tourism at Sihanoukville wrote stating that they knew these things were a problem in certain areas and is worried that the hassling will drive tourists away. I think it is just a symptom of a country who is developing its tourist economy and relationship with foreigners. When you think that in Cambodia the idea of exploring just their country is new to them so many have never left their own town let alone country. They therefore possible don't know what it is like to be somewhere different. With time they will develop less intimidating methods to get us to part with our dollars I am sure.
Off to find that book that has so much to deliver!!
(and possibly a beer)