Battambang to Siem Reap by boat down the Sangker River and across Ton Le Sap

Battambang Travel Blog

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Golden Dawn Sangker River Boat Harbour, Battambang, Cambodia
Our driver, Mr. Wat, picked us up at our hotel at the crack of dawn. As promised he had brought our boat tickets.  He took us down to the river docks and helped us find the right boat among the 8 to 10 loading passengers. We paid Mr. Wat but he stayed on the shore waving unil we pulled away. We were assured by everyone we asked that the trip to Siem Reap would take only 2 or 3 hours. When the skipper and his one person crew started pointing at the propeller shaft and arguing in Khmer we began to have our doubts. Half an hour later, we noticed a worker lugging an arc welder down the steep bank of the river - another half-hour and the shaft was welded together.
our patient fellow-passengers in their colourful hats
We were the last boat to leave that morning.
It soon became clear why the propellor shaft had broken and ultimately, why the trip was to take 12 hours instead of 2. We were at an extremely low water season and in certain places our skipper and his one man crew had to get out of the boat and push it through when it ran aground on the muddy bottom.  Sangker is a busy fishing river lined with all sorts of fishing gear from simple thrown nets to huge dip nets raised and lowered by A-frame cranes. The fish that are caught with these diverse gear are placed in the hulls of fishing boats where they are allowed to ferment and later a fermented fish sauce is decanted from this mix and used as a food flavouring throughout Asia. With all the fishing traffic and boats passing us, we ran aground regularly and our crew spent more time in the water either pushing our boat free or helping passing boats - including many rank-smelling fermentation hulls full of rotting fish.
wife steadies boat against our wake as husband prepares fish net.
The whole trip was an amazing sense-experience  that I will never forget

Contributing to our sensory experience was the continually changing vista on life on the river banks. The river was highway, water source, laundry, food source, bathing facility, and sewer for the thousands of households visible from our passing boat. We saw children herding ducks along the banks and women washing clothing and dishes at the waters edge.  Others operated bicycle and passenger ferries across the water.

As we approached the mouth of the Sangker River, the water deepened and we were able to increase our speed although the crew had to manoeuvre around fishing weirs fixed to the bottom that extended out into the Ton Le Sap. We stopped on the Battambang side for a restaurant break and to discharge our remaining Cambodian passengers before crossing to the Siem Reap side. As we walked up the muddy trails of the Siem Reap boat harbour area we were relieved to encounter our driver who had been waiting for us for hours and drove us back to the Salabai Hotel just as the sun was setting.
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Golden Dawn Sangker River Boat Har…
Golden Dawn Sangker River Boat Ha…
our patient fellow-passengers in t…
our patient fellow-passengers in …
wife steadies boat against our wak…
wife steadies boat against our wa…
Houseboats, Battambang Boat Harbour
Houseboats, Battambang Boat Harbour
Passengers watch as welders repair…
Passengers watch as welders repai…
Woman washes clothing in the Sangk…
Woman washes clothing in the Sang…
an A-frame crane with counter-bala…
an A-frame crane with counter-bal…
As we approached the Ton Le Sap, d…
As we approached the Ton Le Sap, …
a duck pen on the river bank
a duck pen on the river bank
Battambang
photo by: Mezmerized