Waking in the homestay on the floating village of Kompong Luong on Monday 27th January, it was time to move on to pastures new. However, during my stay I had discovered that the restaurant owner, Booyen, was also the village barber. As my current hairstyle was reminiscent of Einstein on a bad day I decided to take the plunge and get a Cambodian-style haircut! So, after 20 minutes of hand clippering (no electricity) and scissor cutting and at a vast cost of $1.25 I was shorn again.
Felix and I left together and after the boat and tuk-tuk ride we arrived back in Krakor, just as a bus from Phnom Penh to Battambang arrived. A quick $5.00 purchase of the ticket and we were off on a local coach to Battambang. After a short 2 hour ride we arrived and headed off to our respective guesthouses. Usually there is a waiting committee of tuk-tuks and taxis when a coach arrives but in Battambang we had to find our own transport.
As my tuk-tuk arrived at the Chhaya Hotel I was net by a lovely lady running up to greet me; yes, Faustine had seen me in the tuk-tuk and it turned out that Faustine, Sebastian and Andy were staying in the same hotel…good news! However, upon checking in I decided to change rooms as the $2.00 dorm I had booked was very small and smelly, so I upgraded to a double en-suite for $5.00!
On that first evening we all went to see the show at the Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus School, not knowing what to expect. However, it was fantastic; the performers were all aged between 16 and 20 and they were so professional but also looked as if they were having a great deal of fun! I have put some short videos of some of the acts; the quality isn’t brilliant but it will give you a taste, so if you are ever in Battambang, make sure you go and see it!
• http://youtu.be/H8Ig3ghvLB8 Yo-yos (2:56 min).
• http://youtu.be/pIFTfTAWUsY Juggling (1:07 min).
• http://youtu.be/WAOQsiFM1-4 Balancing (1:27 min).
The following day, when my young travelling companions finally arose, we hired a tuk-tuk driver and machine for the day and headed out to “do” the touristy things. First on the agenda was a trip on the bamboo train, which is a basically a flatbed on two axles with a small 2-stroke engine. It runs on a single track, so if two trains meet, one has to be dismantled; the following link shows one being reassembled after our train went past:
• http://youtu.be/0z2L3JoICpA (34 secs)
At the end of the track there are some basic stalls where we all had a beer and purchased some mementoes. Unfortunately, as we left in the tuk-tuk Faustine (she of the wet camera previously) realised that she had left her tee shirt at the stall. So, back to the bamboo train we went and waited for the tee shirt to be returned. During the wait I decided to chill out on hammock. Unfortunately, the tie were a tad old and I suddenly found myself not lying gracefully 18”above the dirt but lying sprawled in the dirt as the tie snapped (please, no weight related quips!). Needless to say, after everyone’s initial worry of injury there was laughter all round.
The rest of the day was spent touring a few sights, drinking some rice wine and having an afternoon snack in a very local place near to the bat cave. As dusk approached, we headed to the bat cave to join several dozen other tourists to watch the bats leave for their hunting ground. As the skies darkened you could hear the sound of the bats in their cave as they awoke and flew to the mouth of the cave, but waited for the first ones to brave exiting their sanctuary. Finally, the first one flew out and the spectacle began. The bats flew in a continuous line away from the cave and off to their feeding grounds and they kept coming and coming. After watching for 45 minutes the stream started to wane and we had seen in excess of two million bats fly out of their cave. Just for a change, there’s a little video of the event.
• http://youtu.be/Uin40toGbrg (1:01 min).
The following day the others decided to spend the day kayaking along the river and I hired a bike to explore the area and visit some temples. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised the number of steps up to the first couple of temples and, by the end of the day, I had ascended around 2,500! It was great to have the freedom to wander or stop wherever I liked and the weather was glorious and hot. Later in the day, when I was having trouble finding the last wat of the day, I came across one of the several score of crocodile farms and decided to have a little visit. It was very interesting, looking down into pens with over 100 crocodiles and just a low handrail protecting the edge. My guide seemed very knowledgeable about all aspects of the industry, explaining that a lot of the crocodiles were sent to China and Vietnam for food at around 2 years or their skins at 10 years. I have a final little video of one of the pens:
• http://youtu.be/ZuRipXcfj2k (15 secs).
On my final evening in Battambang I had dinner at the night market, which was very cheap, before an early night; the next day I would begin my two day journey to Kratie, in NE Cambodia, with an 8 hour boat trip to Siem Reap.