Smacked on the nose

Trip Start Dec 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 03, 2011

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Where I stayed
Asia hotel, Kompong Chnang

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

John was right on time in the morning. Bad news was he had a change of plan. Instead of tuktuk, he offered his brother to bring me on a moto as he had scored three new french clients for today's sightseeing. Unconvinced, we moved on to the hotel he was meant to pick up his new clients, to ask if sharing his tuktuk was possible. I was hellbent not to pillion ride on a moto for the rest of my trip. It turned out to be an elderly Italian couple and they were gracious to agree to the idea of sharing the trip. The cost had now brought down to US$5. Not bad at all.
The first stop was the bamboo train ride. More like a bamboo platform on fast wheels. You sit on straw mats and hang on for your life! The speed was considerably fast wih regular bumps wherever the "train" hit the expansion joints on the tracks. We passed rice fields and small villages in 20 minutes before arriving at the next station. In fact the two stations were drinks stalls in disguise and designated solely for tourists. The return was more exciting, not because I almost had my nose ripped off by bush thorns swiping ferociously by, but because the single track we returned on also had oncoming passenger bamboo trains! For thrice, we had to dismount for the captain to disassemble the enire bamboo train for the another train to pass. It was quickly assembled again with the help from the other captains and we were on our way again.
The highlight for me was a visit to a local khmer house built 120 years ago. The occupant was a pleasant 60 year old Khmer lady whose grandparents first built the house. The original timber furniture which are now antiques are still in excellent condition. Her niece who spoke good english explained how her aunt (the current owner) lost both her sons in the Khmer Rouge killings and lost her husband to their servant (they also made off with most of her money). Her own story (the niece) was also quite a tale. She escaped to the US in the late 80s, entered a sham marriage for US$30,000 and obtained her green card. Thereon, she studied business in university, worked for 8 years before returning to Phnom Penh to run an import business. 
We passed several riverside villages, visited a protected fruit bats enclave, Cambodia's only vineyard and winery, and also an Angkorian Temple on Phnom Banan - Prasat Banan. I was not keen on climbing the 358 steps but the views to the top were worth it. While having lunch at the foot of the temple, this other young tuktuk guide arrived with his caucasian passenger as well as a suspicious looking burnt rat on a plate. He exclaimed that it was a rice field mouse and offered a chunk of it to me. Trust me, it tasted just like chicken.
After goodbyes to the Italian couple, I was on my way to Kompong Chnang by 230 pm on a Phnom Penh bound bus. The unfair bus charges was encountered again, I was charged the full bus fare to Phnom Penh even though my stop was only half the distance. By 7pm, I was dropped off at the outskirts of Kompong Chnang without my realisation. Blindly headed towards Sokha guesthouse based on my Lonely Planet map. The streets were so dark that a motorcyclist without his headlights on, bumped into my back by accident. Turned out he was a teacher and offered a free ride to Sokha which was in the opposite direction. Sokha unfortunately was full to the brim and I tried my luck with Asia Hotel, three blocks away. There was apparently a lack of accommodation in this town but Asia Hotel was not too bad - the room was modern looking and comfortable.
Dinner in Kompong Chnang was such a treasure hunt. The market stalls were not appealling to me much today, mainly selling light snacks like corn and fruits. It took me another hour before discovering a not too shabby cafe serving khmer cooking.
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