Days 28 – 30 in Battambang (Photos are here!)

Why were we heading here? The famed bamboo railway. Our bus journey to Battambang was only 3 hours luckily because the bus airconditioning was dodgy, no toilet and the only rest stop had feral squat toilets and food you wouldn’t consider eating. Luckily we had a supply of 2 minute noodles for the boys to crunch.

We arrived in Battambang in the heat of the day. Again as we stepped off the bus we were bombarded by men wanting to take us in their tuk-tuk to our hotel or to sell a hotel room.  Our hotel, Banan Hotel was less than 100 metres from the bus station so we loaded ourselves up and walked over. We had two large rooms booked for $40. They were quite comfortable. The shower was no better than a camp shower however and the Wifi non-existent on our floor.  Breakfast was interesting. Sit at one of two communal round tables and they would deliver everyone the same omelette and baguette.  If you were lucky you got fresh orange juice.

Our first afternoon in Battambang we headed to the White Rose Restuarant for lunch( noted in the Lonely Planet guide). The menu was huge, just as they said. By far the highlight was the fruit smoothies that were $1 each. During our 2 night stay in Battambang we went there three times for smoothies! 

Battambang is not a particularly pretty place or with much to do. We walked around the streets looking for the 20th century French architecture. We could have bought a mobile phone more easily than trying to find a bottle of water!

That evening we headed to the circus as recommended by Rosy Guesthouse in Siem Reap.  The Phare Ponleu Selpak is a centre which teaches disadvantaged local children an art. We got a tuk-tuk to the centre and paid $8 for adults/$4 children to see the one hour circus performance. The first act included a young man doing a high performance tied up in silk, followed by clowns and tightrope walking. The second act was a group of young men conducting a theatrical performance telling a tale of torture by the Khmer Rouge. It was very powerful. One part involved the men juggling and rolling black balls along bamboo sticks. The balls symbolised land mines. 

The next day, we headed to the bamboo train with our tuk-tuk driver Samith ($10 for the day). The bamboo train was an experience. Zipping along at high speed along a rickety track with only bamboo sticks between you and the track. $8 for adults, kids free. We travelled to a small village where of course they hope that you will purchase food, drink etc. The best part of this pitstop were the 3 little children that made grass bracelets on our wrists and entertained us with their giggles. They led us to the ‘snake’.  A village family had captured a poor python that they kept in a large box to show tourists and then expected some money in return.

The Baigrie Family loaded onto the bamboo train!

Along the tracks we stopped a number of times to allow other carriages to pass. As we were the smaller of the carriages, our carriage was taken off the rails to allow the other carriage with people and a motorbike to go ahead.

Next stop on our journey was a tuk-tuk ride to a small rural village.  The village is at the foot of a mountain, Phnom Sampeu, with a complex of temples at the top. Again, there was an expectation that you would buy food and drink from the village. Drinks were safe, food not!  Also, I adamantly stated that we were not riding 3 to a motorbike up the hill. This meant a long walk up the hill with two children and some bananas for the macaques (monkeys) we were told would be waiting for us.

Within the first 20 metres we had one small whingeing child! Was this going to be a success?  Luckily the shade was cooling and a breeze was blowing. We made it up the top with the wingeing child, who at times actually broke into a run and we had to tell him to slow down!  Our young guide took us to the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau; where many people died after being thrown down the overhead opening into the cave below.

Once at the top of the temple we searched and searched for macaques but they weren’t anywhere to be seen. The boys were about to riot …. and then we found them. They were not particulary friendly so the safest way to feed them was to throw a banana to them or hold them at a great distance from your body.

Do not be deceived ... these are devil monkeys!

The walk down was easy and cool. Again we politely refused to eat in the village and had our driver take us back to the White Rose in town for more smoothies as a reward for our big hike.

That evening we dined with the locals in a packed restaurant. That dinner cost us $11.50 with drinks.

Overall 2 nights in Battambang was plenty!

We were leaving on the 9 am bus on Saturday to head back to Phnom Penh for one night. We were staying in Phnom Penh at the Khmer Royal again in order to meet the Director of the Tanop Community Education Centre (TCEC) on Sunday morning for our ride to Tanop.


1 Comment »

  • Win Bartholomai March 17, 2011

    Sounds so interesting. Where to next? Would like to hear from Harris about kids toys – what they play with and what they do in their spare time. Also, any more interesting food ratings?

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