Country Touring

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Battambang, Cambodia

It was an early start with the tuk tuk picking us up at 7.15 am. It was too early for breakfast at the B&B which didn't start serving breakfast till 8 am. A little unusual particularly given that music started acres the road at 5 am so the whole neighbourhood would have been awake anyway. They did give us a snack of some green bananas, bland sponge roll and water.

Our bike tour included a free drink at the cafe which was reputed to have the best coffee in Battambang. Time to end the coffee drought! But no, the coffee machine was broken and they only had Khmer coffee which Simon had, but it wasn't good. However, the Darjeeling tea was made with real tea leaves and the kids enjoyed their mango shake (Georgia) and lime juice (Jonno). We had cheese and tomato toasties for breakfast as the snack really wasn't appetising.

We then learnt some words in Khmer so that we were able to formally say hello to the people we visited. The bikes were high quality and great to ride.

First stop was to see rice paper being made by hand and also the Khmer scarves which were being hand woven using a loom. Georgia had a go and did OK, but Jonno was a natural and we offered to leave him there for the day to help out.

Next stop was bananas - fresh, dried and fried with sugar. All were delicious and we bought some to have as a snack on our boat trip to Siem Reap. Then we saw rice wine aka happy water being made though the kids didn't get to try it.

Then onto lunch where we tried fresh coconut water which was just okay and had a variety of dishes with rice, including grilled fish with pineapple and capsicum, yummy green veggies and some fish soup.

We enjoyed chatting to Thalia and Mary, the two other girls who joined us on the trip. After lunch we stopped for sticky rice cakes cooked inside bamboo. Interesting, but a small bit was enough.

Next stop was the Killing Field which told a similar story to that told in Phnom Penh h but this time accompanied by a mural on the stupa. Again there were skulls and bones stored in the monument. Our tour guide told us a little of the history.

From there we cycled 10 km to the bamboo train which was the highlight of our day. The train consists of a bamboo platform perched on two sets of railway wheels and powered by a small diesel engine and driven by a gung ho driver who used his whistle regardless of whether there was a crossing or not. The train travelled around d 25 kms an hour but it seemed faster as we bounced around on our bamboo platform with nothing to hold on to. So not safe!!!

At the end of the line there were kids selling bracelets and other souvenirs but we passed by them and wandered through the village for 15 minutes of so before clambering back on board for our return trip.

When another platform comes in the opposite direction one platform had to be taken off the track. This happened to us both ways.

However on the way back we had a longer wait and the driver amused himself by starting grass fires around and the track. Rather disconcerting for us Australians but the fires didn't seem to spread too far.

We cycled 6 km back into town and stopped for a cold water before walking back to the hotel. After a shower and some wifi time, we hopped into a tuk tuk and set off for the Phare circus. It was amazing and so much fun to watch though the story line was a bit vague. We saw extraordinary acrobatics, and flexibility and the music really made the show. The performers were aged between 14 and 21 and two of their performers have gone onto circus school in Montreal.

We came out to find our tuk tuk driver waiting and were whisked away to Nary's our restaurant of choice where we ordered our dinner with two rather exhausted children.

Dinner was okay but not as good as Coconut LyLy so we have definitely made the right choice for our cooking class tomorrow.