Comedic Start To The Cambodian New Year
Battambang Travel Blog› entry 49 of 117 › view all entries
Yes, it is Cambodian New Year too, and, yes, the comedy continues.
Blearry-eyed, we successfully boarded our 7:00 bus to Cambodia's second biggest city, Battambang, from Phnom Penh. We only had a loose idea of how long it would take from our guidebook - around four to six hours - so we tried to get as comfortable on the sweatbox with wheels as we could. Six hours passed and we started to look at each with worry that we might have missed it. We spoke to an Australian couple who also admitted they were worried that the bus didn't terminate at Battambang, like the Battambang sign on the front of the bus suggested. We checked our map and, sure enough, we had gone past it.
The rest of the day was a write-off after that, but the following day we kicked into action with a stroll around Battambang.
We wanted to visit some of the wats and temples lying outside Battambang but were advised at our hotel that it would only be possible on a moto (motorbike taxi) because it involved going on country roads that cars and tuk-tuks couldn't get to.
At the summit are a couple of spooky caves with some more remains from the Khmer Rouge's genocidal rule.
We hit the road in our tuk-tuk once more and headed for Wat Banan, and a climb of 359 stairs to see five limestone towers that resemble the famous Angkor Wat, if a lot smaller. A couple of kids almost forced themselves as guides upon us, even though we felt really uncomfortable being fanned by them. We gave them double what our guidebook suggested and they still had the cheek to ask for more! I couldn't believe it.
Then, the highlight. Pretty much just a platform made of bamboo on the rail tracks, attached with a motor, the bamboo train goes at quite a speed. We whizzed along until we saw something the other way, where we had to disembark as quick as we could. The two drivers seemed to find it even more fun than we did, and as soon as we were up and running it started to tip it down. The monk we met earlier had warned us it would start raining at 4:00. It actually started at around 4:20, so he made a fool of himself there.
I've immediately warmed to Cambodia. Mindset completely changes as soon as you arrive and it's easy to go on the defensive when you read about scams and over-priced services for tourists. You have to keep your wits about you, yes, and sometimes the Del Boy-types, the people who perhaps see you as walking dollar signs (they use US dollars here as well as riel), can annoy, beggars, especially amputees, can put you on a bit of a downer as you are told not to give them anything, but the locals who find it a pleasure and sometimes even an amusement to see Westerners more than make up for it. The kids are an absolute treat, always waving or saying hello when they see you, and hostel staff are the nicest we've met so far by a mile. So far so good. Just need to get the actual travelling part right for once.