From Siem Reap to Battambang, via Apocalypse Now

Battambang Travel Blog

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For the first hour of the boat ride from Siem Reap to Battambang, our boat was literally about 5 feet wider than the river. Notice that the passengers are leaning in to avoid being hit by all the branches.
Most of you have probably seen Apocalypse Now, one of the definitive movies about Vietnam. I haven't been to Vietnam yet this trip, but I feel like I just experienced the boat ride.

We decided to pay a few extra bucks and take the boat from Siem Reap to Battambang instead of a bus. Sounded pretty cool, supposedly somewhat scenic. After leaving the dock we spent about two minutes on the river before turning down into what looked like a patch of weeds. That's actually pretty accurate. I remember thinking to myself, "Uhhh.... the river doesn't go that way. That looks passable for maybe a canoe, not a 50 foot boat." Ah, how naive I was. We spent the first hour of the boat ride going down a river that was literally about half as wide as the boat.
One motorboat pulling lots of little boats. Notice the floating village (one of many) in the background.
If you were within 5 feet of either side of the boat, you were going to get slapped by bushes/trees. Absurd.

We finally got to Tonle Sap lake, where the travel was easy for another hour or so. Imagine a mud puddle the size of Lake Tahoe and you've got a pretty good visual. I'll admit it was a little sketchy crossing that on our boat, which looked like something out of a Vietnam war era movie set. The boat was also slightly overloaded, so it leaned a LOT from side to side as the boat rocked. Also sketchy.

After Tonle Sap, we resumed travel on another "river" for a while. Thankfully, it finally opened up into a real river. The whole way from Siem Reap we were passing locals in tiny wooden canoes, out fishing in the mucky water. As we crossed the Tonle Sap we began to see entire floating villages on the river, hence the Apocalypse Now reference.
As with the cab ride from Poipet, everyone is very poor. This is probably the most impovershed country I've ever visited. Town after town, each floating in the river of mud. As we got futher up the river the small villages gave way to individual houses with simple crops along the river. Everywhere, from villages to huts, all the local children would run out and wave to the boat. The teens and adults did not... curious.

As we've heard from quite a few Cambodians, the government really doesn't care about the people. Filled with corruption and conniving politics, Cambodia has an unequal wealth distribution that reminds me of Brazil (though I've never been there). The government does literally nothing for its people. The day we visited Angkor Wat was actually a national voting day and many Cambodians expressed hope that the election would change the present course of the country. On top of the internal political strife, Cambodia is currently at war with Thailand over a temple near the border. You guys probably know more about this than I do, but my understanding is that both countries want the temple and the UN gave it to Cambodia, but Thailand still doesn't want to give it up. I'm visiting this country during a very volatile time.

Right now we're in Battambang, staying at one of the nicest hotels in town. After getting sunburned to hell on the boat ride we decided to splurge and get a room with AC and hot water - our first hotel with either this whole trip. We paid dearly for it though, as it cost an extravagent $15/night. Sometimes you just need to live like a king though, if only for a day.

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For the first hour of the boat rid…
For the first hour of the boat ri…
One motorboat pulling lots of litt…
One motorboat pulling lots of lit…
photo by: Mezmerized