05.03.2012 - 07.03.2012 29 °C
Day 157: Battambang, Cambodia 05/03/2012
Up earlyish for our bus to Battambang from Siem Reap. A breakfast of peanut butter and jelly baguette is every bit as good as it sounds. On the bus for half nine and very nice it is too. We weren't expecting too much at $4 each but it is a brand new, air conditioned luxury coach with lots of legroom, which was handy for Gemma. Arrive in Battambang about 1pm and it seems to be a nice little town, a million miles from the more westernised appearance of Siem Reap, with a huge traditional market and lots of activity around the bus stand. We are mobbed by tuk-tuk drivers upon getting off the bus but are eventually accosted by a friendly driver who takes us to check out a few hotel options for half a dollar. We end up agreeing to hiring him for the rest of the afternoon and after a quick lunch he takes us first to the bamboo train, which was a great experience.
The bamboo train is basically a disused train line that was adapted by the locals to transport their stuff around on 6 foot by 4 foot bamboo platforms powered by a small diesel engine. The train rattled through the countryside a bit quicker than we expected and was a bumpier experience than a teenager's forehead. The real fun, however, occurs when there is a train approaching in the opposite direction, at which point all occupants must jump off for the train to be dismantled and taken off the track, allowing the other vehicle to pass. This bizarre experience is quite a lot of fun and the whole carriage needs to be put back together to continue the journey. After about half an hour, at the end of the line, we alighted to grab a drink and were befriended by some local kids who made some pretty impressive models out of grass and who, despite living in a poor rural part of the country, were far more competent at working all the features of a Fujifilm camera than the pair of us.
After the bamboo train we visited the rather more sobering killing cave, a cave and former temple used by Pol Pot as part of his somewhat misguided efforts to enforce his Khmer Rouge regime. However, the views from the top of the mountain here are quite spectacular and there is an incredible gold temple frequented by monkeys at the summit. Our driver is very funny and charismatic and assures us that the most poisonous snake in Cambodia is the same as in the UK, this serpent of doom being the infamous 'trouser snake' apparently.
Day 158: Battambang, Cambodia 06/03/2012
A lazy morning spent watching some tv in the room is followed by a call back to Maidenhead to wish Dave a happy birthday. I get my time difference calculations ever so slightly wrong and wake them all up but still good to talk. A good, cheap lunch is followed by a walk around the market, which is very busy, hot and noisy. There is a huge butcher/fishmonger district within the market and the cleavers are moving at a hundred miles an hour, resulting in Gemma being flicked with bits of raw pork.
Decide on where to go next, look into going all the way to the coast and to Sihanoukville, but Phnom Penh edges out as favourite and we book another ticket through the same bus company for the following day. Six hour journey costs $5 each, leaving at 9am tomorrow. Perfect. Have dinner at a restaurant called 'Smoking Pot' and head back for an early night. On the way home Gemma has the brainwave to buy some cheap vodka and some Red Bull. After finishing her drinks she is out like a light at about 11pm. No such luck for me as the Red Bull has the normal effect and I am still climbing the walls about 5 hours later.