A Travellerspoint blog

Battambang

Bamboo trains, bats and more beautiful Cambodia

sunny
View Travelling 2016 on Floglet's travel map.

9/1/16
On Saturday we waved goodbye to Siem Reap and had a beautiful (but long) bus journey through rural Cambodia. Having already heard snippets of the country's recent devastating history, we took some time to read more on the ride. It was harrowing but helped provide some background to what we saw the next day.

When we arrived in Battambang we experienced the crazy tuk tuk hounding again and opted for an English speaking driver who promised the ride for 50c. When we reached our hotel we had the tour package hard sell again. This time though we tipped him a little extra and he left us to it. After a little siesta we ventured out to discover the town. We were immediately struck by how different it felt to Siem Reap. Much calmer and much more Cambodian and pretty quiet for the country's second largest city. We had a little wander through the arts quarter and to one of the town's temples.
For dinner we headed to Jaan Bai, a restaurant that trains and employs vulnerable young people. We had a feast of delicious tapas and headed back to the hotel.

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10/1/16
We'd booked an excursion for the Sunday afternoon and so spent some time in the morning wandering around the town. It was great to catch the market in full swing and chill out for a bit by the river.
In the afternoon we were picked up by our tuk tuk driver and headed to O Dambong village, just outside the city, where we boarded our bamboo train - a 3m long crate, covered in bamboo. It is powered by a gasoline engine and manned by a Cambodian driver. It reaches speeds of 15km/h, which feels a lot faster than you think when you're not strapped in! We got amazing views of the countryside over the 7km journey and maybe swallowed a few flies. At the end of the line we got to explore O Sra Lav village and some of the beautiful fabric they had for sale. The return journey was a little slower, as it's only single track there was a bit of negotiating to do whenever you met another carriage. One time our driver left us to float along the track for a fair few metres while he helped out another. We were completely oblivious and only realised when another tourist pointed out that he was missing!

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After the train we headed to Phnom Sampeau, a limestone mountain. For this second part of our tour we were gifted two motorbike drivers who promptly drove us halfway up to the first site - the killing caves and the memorial to those who lost their lives there. In the early 70s this site was used by the Khmer Rouge to bludgeon to death thousands of innocent Cambodians, who didn't fit their vision of society. Today it's an eerily peaceful place, with several buddah statues and a glass walled memorial filled with the bones and skulls of some of those killed.

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After visiting the memorial we headed up to the top of the mountain to explore the beautiful temples and take in the stunning views. We opted to stay an extra hour to see the sun set and were rewarded with some close encounters with wild monkeys and their babies, such a treat. Whilst waiting for the sun to go down we bumped into our tuk tuk driver from the previous day and heard how he had escaped the Khmer Rouge by hiding out in the countryside below the mountain where we were sat.

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Once the sun had nearly set we headed back down the mountain and grabbed a seat with other eager travellers. At around 6pm, on hearing some gasps, we all looked up to see thousands and thousands of bats funneling out from the mountain above. It was pretty spectacular. It happens at the same time every night and we just couldn't believe how they all managed to fit in the cave to start with!

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To finish off a fabulous day we headed out for green tea and chinese dumplings - delicious and a snip at £3 for the two of us!

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11/1/16
On Monday we had a day to kill before catching the night bus to Sihanoukville and so we decided to spend it exploring more of Battambang. It was a pretty hot day so the sight seeing was interspersed with food and drink at local community cafes.

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In the morning we headed to the park, followed by another spectacular temple. In the afternoon we saw some of the old French architecture at the Governor's house and then decided to escape the heat in the city's small museum. The main exhibition was of ancient stone carvings, very impressive and immaculate considering their age, but it was the smaller exhibit that left an impression on us - personal accounts of survivers from the Khmer Rouge regime. It really hit home how brutal it was and how recently it all occurred but it was amazing to see the projects in motion to educate young Cambodians on this harrowing part of their history.

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As it was our last night in the town we treated ourselves to dumplings again before heading back to the hotel with three hours to kill until our night bus.

Posted by Floglet 07:06 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Siem Reap, Cambodia

sunny 33 °C

06/01/2016 - Our first impressions of Siem Reap weren't great. After a long bus journey (9 hours) that involved a slightly sweaty, choatic border crossing at Poipet we were dropped off at the bus station with the promise of a free tuk-tuk ride to our hostel. The driver seemed overly friendly and gave us leaflets of the tours he offered to look at, once we arrived and told him politely that we weren't interested that's when he turned and the emotional anger charged guilt trip began. So we did the mature grown up thing and ran away from him and into the hostel. Once we'd checked in and freshened up a bit we went to Angkor night market and had a delicious and ridiculously cheap dinner of grilled aubergine with pork, chicken amok and rice from a market stall.

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07/01/2016 - We were up and in a tuk tuk for 5am to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat. This time our driver was super friendly which was a nice surprise. We were in place to see the sunrise just before 6, it was a bit overcast so the sunrise wasn't the best we'd seen but the amazing setting more than made up for it. We spent around 2 hours exploring the temple and were overcome by the size, beauty and tranquility of it. By 8am the heat was already intense and it was time for one of many games of hide and seek with our driver as he waited for us in a car park with hundreds of other tuk tuk drivers...we won them all fyi. We then went on to the Bayon temple, where we saw wild monkeys for the first time and might have got a little overexcited. Our driver took us to see more incredible temples before culminating in a trip to Ta Prohm, a temple that parts of Tomb Raider were filmed in. A mixture of the early start, the heat and the humidity knocked us out for a good few hours once we finally got back to our room. We ended up having street food and being surprised by the price and the amazing quality again.

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08/01/2015 - We had a relaxed morning, going for the far from traditional continental breakfast at a bakery in town. Saying that the French ruled Cambodia for a while and we had croissants...maybe?! After breakfast we did some shopping and booked bus tickets to our next stop. In the afternoon we went on another trip with our driver from the day before. This time he took us to the village of Phnom Phluk, we then got on a boat that took us through the village which is built on stilts because of the flood risk. The village was structurally incredible and like nothing we'd ever seen before. Beyond the village was the floating jungle which again was incredible and a completely new sight. In the evening we went to a really good restaurant that had been recommended by the lonely planet and had another incredible meal. Fleur had her first fresh coconut. We then went to a bar in Pub Street, which is what it sounds like...a hub of tourist drinking activity that is tacky but harmless, for a drink and to watch some traditional Cambodian dancing in one of the bars.

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Posted by AnitaBhogal 07:10 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

And so it begins...

LHR - DEL - BKK

sunny 31 °C
View Travelling 2016 on Floglet's travel map.

Sorry it's taken a while for us to write this, hope it was worth the wait...

3-4/1/16
Sunday 3rd January soon came around and before we knew it we were at Heathrow, with our rucksacks packed and ready to go. Having battled the traffic we checked in and said our emotional goodbyes to the family. Once we were through security we headed straight to the Sky lounge (thank you DofE Team!) where we enjoyed free dinner, wine and WiFi! If only we'd had longer!

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We were Delhi-bound just after 9.30pm and enjoyed a second dinner on board. After 8ish hours we landed in India and staved off the DVT by pacing around Departures (bigger than you'd expect) and boarded our second flight just after midday.

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We landed in Bangkok just after 7pm, when the heat really did hit us - England's mild December had not prepared us for that! A luminously pink taxi drove us to our hostel - http://www.chernbangkok.com which was super clean and relaxing.

Later in the evening we headed out to see the amazing light display in the square just next door to the hostel and picked up snacks for dinner.

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5/1/16

The first day of our travels was spent in Bangkok. We had a leisurely (hot) walk into the city from our hostel and had lunch from a street food stall for just over £1! In the afternoon we went to Jim Thompson's house (an ex-CIA agent turned silk producer) - which was a sanctuary of calm in the manic city. http://www.jimthompsonhouse.com

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After a quick wander around the city's main shopping centre we caught our first tuk tuk over to Koh San Road. We were a bit underwhelmed by the street itself, and felt like we'd stepped into a less-quirky Camden. We did find a bargain dinner of Pad Thai and sat and watched the backpacking world go by.

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Posted by Floglet 05:43 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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