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cambodia - battumbang

Written on: Wednesday February 13th, 2008

A journal entry from: South East Asia 2008

the boat ride to battumbang from siem reap is an adventure! waking up at the crack of christmas (for the second day in a row) we were picked up in a 12 passenger van and shuttled to the bus depot. with 17 people in the van, i was obviously sitting next to the guy who smelled like last night and feet.

for 45min of the 2nd bus ride (a bit more room), we got a greater taste of khmer country living. leading up towater and fishing-based villages we saw traditional cambodian houses on stilts and a very simple way of life.

the moment we stepped off the bus we were greated by the standard assortment of hakwers selling bread, fruit and cheese. because: "they not have everything on the boat" (which turned out to mean: there is no food on the boat). we bought baguettes, cheese and 6 bananas for a few bucks.

we crossed a 40cm wide plank to a boat shack on the water, leading to two boats. ours, about twenty people with two levels (one cabin, the other the roof) and the 12 hour voyage to phnom penh (barf). the boat to PP was MENTAL. it was so packed with people, they were hanging off the side. we were relieved, climbed aboard and out our breakfast on the roof in the sun -- even enough room to lay down.

the 4-8 hour time window given for the boat ride turned into a solid 8. it's dry season, so the river is considerably lower. we went along the Stung Sangker and through Tonle Sap (cambodia's biggest lake).

we saw small clusters of houses, naked children, mosques, fishermen and other travelers along the river. the kids would scream "hello", "bye bye" and blow us kisses. it truly seemed like a highlight of their day - and definitely my favorite part of the voyage.

life in battumbang was laid back and we spent a few days there. we stayed at the chhaya hotel and it was a great deal for $6/night.

Eating/Drinking in Battumbang

  • white rose (great fruit shakes for $0.62)
  • Fresh Eats (program for education, job training and subsidisation of at risk kids, HIV/AIDS effected cambodians, street kids, disadvantaged women) -- Great food and traditional dancing on the rooftop on fridays and saturdays. we went and even danced! so tough...but fun
  • Riverside Balcony Bar -- home of the decadent burger and Black Panther Beer (cambodian malt liquor).
we also spent a day in the countryside with our driver, Bun and his friend. they gave us moto transport and a history lesson to go along with the beautiful and horrific sites of Wat Banon (mini-angkor wat), Fruit bat sanctuary and an infamous killing cave of the khmer rouge.
we ended that day along the bamboo train -- which is a small outboard motor that pushes us along the train track. if someone is coming the other way, one of the "trains" needs to be disassembled and pulled out of the way.
this was really one of my favorite days. alongside us on the motos, we saw everything from weddings, to cock fights in a field to bats and much more. really a nice part of cambodian culture.
this is a small place that is really worth checking out.