Took a local bus from Phnom Penh to Battambang, a sleepy little town in the north-west. Bus was going quite well until our first rest-stop when the boys decided to tamper with the bloody engine. Only took about an hour (in the searing heat) to start the bus again so not too much of an inconvenience. I think you need to go to Cambodia with a fairly laid-back attitude to all these things and you’ll be grand. Once we arrived, to tuk-tuk drivers literally banging the bus window to get our attention we were brought to this guesthouse which didn’t have a sink in the bathroom. What the hell? I budget you not. Off we went to the ‘Holiday Hotel’, which was lovely. Our fanciest bathroom yet!
So Battambang is Cambodia’s second largest city, apparently. The street names are as follows; Street 1, Street 2 and…Street 3. There are also streets 1.5 and 2.5. Epic. On our first night we watched a kids karate class on the square by the river. This little girl, about 2, was watching her older brother and copying all his karate moves – hilarious. She’ll be a mighty little mover! It must be so nice to be able to depend on the weather to plan a whole week in advance for an outdoor class.
Found a great café that sells hot oatmeal AND brown toast, the Sunrise Coffee House. So good. Rented some bicycles for $1 each (have to do all this cycling to stave off the 50 stone I would have put on otherwise as a result of all of these café days) and pottered around. Saw some temples, bridges, parks, Governer’s Residence from early 1900s and a night food-market. Such a relaxed place. On one of our temple expeditions I decided it was high time for a rest under the most non-shade providing tree you can imagine. So off John went cycling around the temple. When he wasn’t back 15 minutes later I was pretty worried. Turns out he was off chatting with a monk! John told the monk he had pretty good English, to which the monk replied that yes, he does study a bit alright. The monk asked John if he spoke Cambodian and John said yes of course, then renditioned him with the only Cambodian he actually knows: ‘som ket loi’…the bill please.
Rented a motorbike (no, neither of us has driven a motorbike before but John said he’d chance it after a quick lesson from a 14 year old girl) the next day for $6 and visited ‘Ek Phnom’ temple a few kilometres outside Battambang. This place includes a huge Buddha and some ruins from 1027 A.D. Two little girls decided to make it their business to show us around. Obviously we were going to give them something for their ‘troubles’; the older of the two (aged 6 and 12) pipes up “Please Sir, for help with my school”. Sure how could you say no? We had read about visiting this abandoned Pepsi factory which has some squatters living there too and we found that pretty easily. Wandered in and it was so eerie – there are still empty Pepsi bottles in crates around the place. Found another café run by a lovely American girl called ‘Café Eden’ by the river. They had a really good acoustic guitar singing session and some really great food. The make their own crisps! (which we only know because John ordered chips…)
We were supposed to get the bus out of Battambang and on to Siem Reap the next day but couldn’t be doing with that bus malarkey so off to the Sunrise Café we went…for five hours! Met a lovely couple from Essex who gave us some great tips for our travels. Sometimes you need a day off…