D-Day! Or so I thought...
Battambang Travel Blog› entry 8 of 13 › view all entries
Ok, so I'm a complete Doofus! I don't think I've really known the day or date in over 2 yrs since I first became a tour guide. When I'm on holiday there is zero chance of me knowing these details! So Vipassana starts on Feb 1 but in my head it starts on a Tuesday so last night I'm looking at the date expecting to be starting today beause it's a Tuesday but, like, Tuesday isn't the 1st. Oops!
I had been getting a bit anxious sitting around waiting for 'today' because I kept thinking to myself how when I'm experiencing new things I want to write or talk about it and that 'tonight' I would be experiencing so many new things and not being able to do either. That really scares me, hey. I decided to jump on a bus to Battambang anyway as I've spent truckloads of time in Phnom Penh and I really needed a distraction.
The first 6 hours of my day were spent on a bus and getting used to the local squatting toilets. Now, I'm all for squatting to pee; if I wasn't I would have had a lot of awkward moments on the bus over the last couple of years! What I'm not into is using a bucket to 'flush' the toilet (my hand sanitiser leaked and I keep forgetting to replace it so don't want to touch the bucket) and using a bum gun to 'wipe' my arse! How does that even work without getting water all over your clothes!? Thankfully I only needed to drip dry on today's journey and thankfully I thought ahead way back in Singapore and totes stole toilet paper from my hotel, which is awesome because as it would happen, $6/night hotels in Battambang don't provide it!
When I got off the bus in Battambang I felt like Britney Spears flashing the paparazzi! Every tuk tuk driver wanted a piece of me because I said the magic words 'I haven't booked anywhere!' Well well well don't they just love those words. It was like feeding time at the zoo as they shouted prices and shoved photos and maps under my nose and yelled directions at me! By golly; totes intense! I eventually just went with the first guy who'd approached me 'cos he said I could check the room first. The room wasn't free, the next place was full and that's how I ended up at my $6/night hotel, which charges more for a/c than the room itself! I can actually see the hotel I originally went to, which was charging $7 just behind my hotel. The original one is lit up and new and beautiful. Mine's a dingy hole and my balcony faces that stupid flashy one, which sits there mocking me with it's new red Chinese lanterns on every balcony *ugly cry*
So I decided to do something a little gimmicky for my next distraction and go on the bamboo train. *So* much fun! The tuk tuk ride there is almost as fun as it takes you down a dirt road with massive potholes in it so you bounce around heaps and these tuk tuks really aren't made for such a road but it soldiered on. So the bamboo train is this old style train system they have to cart food and wares from place to place between all the rice fields. It is literally a bamboo platform that they balance on wheels with a little motor at the back. The tracks are so rickety that you are frequently pleasantly surprised when you don't derail! The whole thing is warped and curvy and the rail joins are out of alignment but it does the job so that's ok. One of the novelties of the train is that when you meet other carts or (not on my trip) a real train, then you must get off, dismantle it, wait for the oncoming one to pass and then start back up again! Novel for the first two times, kind of annoying beyond that! It took me to the next station (the whole round trip takes a little over an hour) where this lady and all these kids greeted me. They were so cute. I sat down and an oooooold man gave me a lady finger banana and I bought a coconut. While I drank from my coconut the kids made me rings out of reeds. They ended up making one for each finger and thumb it was really cool. The youngest girl kept counting them out in English.
After my hands were donned with beautiful new accessories the kids took me into the village area and showed me the rice mill. Any brown rice they find is 'bad rice' so it gets refined into a powder for pig food. The rest of the rice gets milled into super tiny grains for chicken feed and then the normal sized stuff for people. They sell 50kg bags for $27. As we headed back to the train line the youngest girl turned on her begging voice. I've only heard one child do it before at the killing fields and it's this hollow, haunting voice. It's really low and sounds almost like they are doing a really slow chant. Their whole face changes into something lifeless and sad. It makes you feel sick when you realise they are asking for money. Anyway, they had provided me a service so I gave them a bit of cash to share but they said it goes to their mum and for school supplies, etc. I said she might give them a little for candy but one of the girls said 'I don't like candy' and I'm like 'good! It'll rot your teeth ;)' haha.
I am surprised at the amount of schools here in Battambang, which is small and while it's a city it is rural compared with Phnom Penh. Sam, my tuk tuk driver said there are a lot of private schools and a university here. The kids, even the ones who sell books instead of going to school are really switched on hey. Like they know way too much about the world and when you explain to them as if they are children why you don't want to buy a book then they talk back in a tone that is like 'don't patraonise me!' They're sick of the excuses. It's kind of cute but also pretty sad. Kids shouldn't grow up like that.
Sam, my new favourite tuk tuk driver (I had one in Phnom Penh, Leinn, who would kiss me on the cheek and piggy backed me to his tuk tuk the first time I said I wanted his service! He even took the time to give me safety warnings and escort me across the road lol) was the driver who had dropped me off at the hotel. I felt like he was ripping me off with a price he quoted to take me to Vipassana tomorrow and he thought I was being cheap so he just left me but did leave a card with his number on it. Turns out he'd quoted less than Lonely Planet so, like, oops! Anyway, I called him to take me to the train and he will take me to Vipassana tomorrow too. I will never question his prices again though. It turns out he was born in 1975, the year Pol Pot took over and is an orphan of the war. He doesn't know what happened to his family but assumes they were killed by the Khmer Rouge. His son is in school and he makes an honest living renting his tuk tuk for $50/month. You just can't escape the Khmer Rouge; even on our way to the rice mill there was this building with barely any walls left and one of the kids said that's where people were killed in the war.
It has been a really lovely day though. I still need distractions though because I'm getting nervous about the real D-Day tomorrow (wander around and discover the town tonight, Khmer cooking class tomorrow morning before I leave!) This will be the biggest challenge I have ever faced. The more I think about it the more I realise that every quality you need to succeed are qualities I lack; the ability to sit still, to not be expressive or communicate in anyway, to concentrate... Thank god I'm as stubborn as a mule in a meditation class! I'm hoping that will trump all else!
So this is my last blog for a couple of weeks. Wish me luck on not burning down my cooking class, oh yeah, and on succeeding in Vipassana... Here's to unlocking the secrets of my universe!!