Travel break, Battambang

Trip Start Sep 19, 2010
Trip End Sep 19, 2011

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Flag of Cambodia  ,
Sunday, March 13, 2011

26 Th Feb.


    Our bus left for Battambang ( pronounced Battambong ) at 11 AM. The journey was a pleasant one with two stops over the five and a half hours it took to get there. We noticed how the green countryside of our last visit four months ago had changed. The paddies were now dry and bare. There was no greenery anywhere, just a brown dry landscape. Wow, we have been away that long we are watching the seasons change!!! As we pulled into Battambang we were met by the usual throng of tuk tuk drivers vying for our custom. Cathy picked one and we set off for a hotel we had seen on the Internet called the Hotel Khemara. We were attracted to this hotel because it had a pool and free WiFi  for just under 10. It sounded too good to be true. As it turned out it was all this and more. We had a fantastic room with balcony and about 15 movie channels. The swimming pool and poolside bar were beautiful. We decided on the spot that it was time for a holiday and booked in for five nights, costing us under 50!!! A hotel of equal quality in the Caribbean would cost between 70 and 100 a night easy. We spent the rest of the day swimming and having a few beers. One thing I did like about the pool was that you could swim until 10 PM. We arranged with the tuk tuk driver a half day tour of the city for the next morning.

  Battambang is Cambodia's second city and is situated in western Cambodia. We were expecting it to be a large city but it can't be a tenth the size of Phnom Penh.  It actually felt like a medium sized provincial town.

  Early the next morning, well early by my standards anyway we set off on our tour. First stop was the Bamboo railway. Let me explain. By the end of the Civil war the country's infrastructure was completely destroyed. The roads were a total mess and all the trucks were either smashed or unserviceable. It was the same story on the railways, but with the railways the track still existed. Goods as well  people still had to get from A to B. The solution was simple but ingenious. They used the railway lines. They simply built bamboo platforms and placed these over a couple of axles and wheels. At first they propelled these by standing on board and using poles to push themselves along. Someone soon came up with the idea of attaching a motorbike engine via a belt to power the platforms along. This was believe it or not the main form of transport in Cambodia in the post war years. But with single tracks and lots of bamboo trains going in opposite directions you need rules, and the rules of the rails were simple. Those trains with the least cargo or passengers had to give way to heavier trains coming in the opposite direction. This meant unloading the platform then lifting the light bamboo platform itself off the wheels and finally lifting the axle and wheels off the line. This then allowed the other train to pass. The train was then put back on the line and loaded up again to continue it journey along the rails. It could be a long day if the track was busy!!!

    We arrived at the the bamboo railway paid our 6 and climbed onto the little bamboo train. The day was very hot, so when the train got going the breeze was most welcome. I have read that they are closing the railway next year and I am so glad we got to experience it before it closes. The train took us about five miles to a little sleepy village where we had a Coke and a wander, then back on the train for our ride back. We met oncoming trains several times and each time they only had one passenger. We were two passengers so they had to give way to us and we got to see how they quickly dismantle the trains. It was a fantastic experience and it is yet another mode of transport we can add to our growing list of transport we have taken on our trip so far. In my very last blog I will write them all down.

  From here we went to see a Wot ( temple ). After Angkor Wot and Bagan  it was nothing special. We also called into the Battambang Killing fields memorial. Here they had another monument filled with the bones of the victims. It makes me so angry to think virtually no one has ever been held to account for the murders and to make matters worse they know exactly who these people are!!!! From here we went to see how sticky rice is made. They add coconut milk to the rice, place it inside bamboo and cook it. The result is lovely.

  After our tour we hardly left the hotel, we just relaxed for the rest of our time in Battambang. Next stop Phnom Penh for two days shopping in the markets then on to the Philippines. Sorry if this blog is a bit erratic. But I am on a high. Cathy and I swam with Whale sharks today off the southern coast of Luzon in the Philippines and I just can't concentrate at all. It has just blown me away!!

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trish and john on

no conductor's then,great a holiday with in a holiday

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