Rural Countryside, Temples and Scenic Boat Ride
Trip Start Dec 18, 2011
18Trip End Feb 26, 2012
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Where I stayed
Had a long day on the bus to get from Sihanoukville to Battambang since a night bus was not an option. Had lots of nice rural scenery to watch out of my window and after about 4-5hrs on the bus I arrived at Phnom Penh.
Here I found that I to get a tuk tuk to another bus terminal from which the bus to Battambang departed. This transit ended up being just over an hour with me sitting in the terminal and watching the locals. Also had to make sure I got the right bus since the announcements that were being made werent particularly clear and I had no idea what time my bus was actually going to depart.
Once the bus finally arrived I found that I had another 6hr bus journey before I reached Battambang
Found that the two places recommended by my book were both full so had to find another place. Luckily one was just down the road for about the same price. Was a nice enough place so decided to stay there both night rather than change the following night.
Hadnt really eaten much all day so wandered the streets looking for some food. Could find a restaurant but did find a shop where I could grab something to eat.
Day 1 - Town, Phnom Banan, Phnom Sampeau
Headed out early to go to the ferry terminal to buy a boat ticket to Siem Reip. From the hotel headed to the river and then walked up along it to where the ferry terminal was. On my way had some nice views of the town which seemed to have quite a few colonial buildings in it
Unfortunately had no luck finding the boat ticket office. While I found a bus ticket office and a place with lots of boats next to a pharmacy I couldnt see the boat ticket office. Found out the following day that this had been on the other side of the pharmacy and was just one small building that really didnt stick out.
Since I had no ticket I decided to head to the hotel which the guide book recommended for buying tickets. Since it was early wandered the streets a bit along the way and found these full of life. In particular the markets I passed had lots of vendors and lots of buyers.
Once back at the hotel got the boat ticket at $18 rather than the normal ticket price of $20 which the boat ticket office charged. Not really sure why I could get the ticket for cheaper but I am not going to complain.
After having sorted my ticket I decided to hire a tuk tuk to visit some of the nearby sites
First stop was Phnom Banan which was about 28km from the town. Along the way had nice rural views and saw lots of people as well as quite a few villages and houses lining the road. Also lots of people transporting goods along the road on the back of trailers attached to motor bikes or rice field ploughers with their long handles. Other interesting sites included some monks walking down the road with the pots they use to collect the food for their meals and people going about chores. Could also see lots of livestock.
Another interesting thing that appeared on the side of the road were large tents that were decorated and blaring music. Found out later from my driver that these tents were basically tents to hold wedding receptions. He also mentioned that this was the session to be getting married and since I saw almost one dozen of these tents throughout the day that definitely seems to be the case.
Also found that that many of the houses I was passing had large pots outside of them
Along the way to the first stop also had a quick stop at Cambodia's only winery. Didnt end up trying any since it was quite expensive to get a tasting glass and I wasnt curious enough to find out.
Found Phnom Banan to be a nice enough temple located up a long flight of stairs which had some nice carvings. At the top of the stairs found a number of temples as well as a small shrine. Had some really nice views back down to the valley from here.
Had read in the guide book that some caves were nearby but saw a landmine sign so decided that exploring the country side was probably a bad idea. Was surprised to see the sign and when I asked the tuk tuk driver about it later he said that there were actually no landmines in the area anymore and the sign was there more to deter people from wandering around the countryside
Spent maybe 30-50min on the mountain and found some interesting trees with white flowers up here. As I was heading back down the stairs I could see some locals fanning or helping some tourists up and down the stairs. Hadnt thought the stairs were that tough but I guess some people are really unfit and it gives the locals a chance to make a buck.
Once back down it was back in the tuk tuk and onto Phnom Sampeau. Along the way once again had some nice rural scenes of local country life to see as I passed by.
Another hill with lots of stairs to climb up to the top as well as a few monkeys along the way. As I made my way to the top I once again some more nice views of the surrounding countryside.
Passed a few small temples on my way up include a buddha statue with a monk sitting at its base to provide a nice photo. Near the top of the hill found my first temple complex with a few interesting statues and temples.
From here followed a road that lead me to the main temple complex
After walking up these I clambered up a nearby hill for some photos of the temples standing above the gorge and the surrounding plains. From here continued onto to the temple I had seen in the distance. Found that this had been a good decision since this temple had a trail leading to the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau where a glass walled memorial filled with bones and skulls of Khmer Rouge victims could be found. Here I could also see the hole through which victims were through after being bludgeoned to death.
From here it was back up the road and down another path that lead to a couple more small caves, buddhist statues and temple. Here I managed to find some site seeing monks and got some good photos of them near the statue. While I saw lots of wild monkeys here I also saw one small chained monkey which I guess the guy uses provide tourists with photo opportunities (at a cost).
Headed back down the hill to my tuk tuk and took it back to the town
Since it was still early I decided to head to the museum which was small and only had a few displays followed by a bit of wandering around the town. After the museum headed across the river to a temple and could see a number of people fishing in the river. Interesting to see how they threw their nets into the water then pulled it back with some fish. While there were a few big fish I was thinking that quite a few of the fish they collected were a bit small.
Found the temple to be interesting enough but only worth a sort visit. Had wanted to grab some food on the way back but decided to give the insect and snake stand I passed a miss.
Once again saw the local refrigaration method in effect and am sure that this also happened in our part of the world before fridges were common. Seems that rather than having your own fridge you have a cold box and a local ice man come around proving you with your daily block of ice
Passed through another temple and by a few colonial building before stopping for some food. Not sure what to call it but it was the same thing I had in Chiang Mai and I quite like it (look at photo to see it being cooked). Also saw the local potter going about town with his wares. Unlike most people who use motorised transport to haul things, this guy was still using his ox to move his cart around.
Before heading back to the hotel decided for one more trip through the local market for the sounds and smells then headed to the hotel. By now it was getting late and after a bit of a rest headed out to grab some dinner before calling it a night.
Found that I had had lots of interesting sites during the day and the town had definitely been worth a days stopover for a view of the more rural Cambodia.
Day 2 - River Boat Trip to Siem Reip
Was picked up from the hotel and taken by tuk tuk to the boat dock
At the start of the ride lots of houses and villages along the riverside with all of these being on stilts. Had lotsof people going about morning chores such as the washing clothes or preparing to head out to fish the river. Could tell that large parts of the riverside population here were muslem by the head dress and mosque that appeared every few Kms.
While on the river also saw lots of kids playing near the water and got a few waves as the boat passed by. Not sure why but at one point ended up having to stop for about 30min and had some kids wander down to the boat. Worst thing about this was that some tourists gave the kids some stuff (eg food) and can image in a few years time having kids come down to the shore to beg. I know they are trying to be nice but should really find other ways to do it.
After the stop continued down the river past lots of houses and lots of boats. Could see why the trip down the river took so long because the whole river was covered by different peoples fishing nets and it was necessary to navigate between these nets in order to not have the nets caught in the propeller
In addition to the small fishing boats a number of larger boats were also moving along the river. Not sure if these were just house boats of people who lived on the river or boats transporting good.
After an hour or so the banks started to get lower and the number of houses fewer and farther between. Some of these were also not on stilts and looked more temporary in construction. If nothing else they surely would survive the flooding of the river without any stilts. Am guessing that the plastic sheet houses were probably temporary structure but up by the people I had seen cruising the river in the large house like boats. This way the boats would at least give people somewhere to go whenever the river level rose.
At this point could also see some open fields where people were planting crops. This seemed to be being done by hand though the ploughing of the field was done by machine. Found it interesting to watch the guys riding on their motorised ploughers cruising around the fields.
From this point could see that the river opened up a bit into what looked like a flood plan with birds feeding in the shallows
This channel wasnt much wider than the boat and had high trees lining both sides. Had to move away from the edge of the roof at this point since lots of the branches were brushing across the top of the roof. Decided here to stand and try to balance on the roof since it meant I could dodge branches and see over the top of them. Not much to see though except trees. Seems that at this point were were tranversing through a flooded forest.
Travelled down this channel for quite a while and smaller boats heading the other way had to move into the trees along the side in order for our boats to pass. At one point one of the larger house boats had to go backwards until it found a gap in the trees that it could squeeze into so that we could pass by it.
Eventually the trees got smaller and from the roof I could see a large plain of water full of small shrubs a trees all the way to the horizon.
After an hour or so made it out of the channel into a wide part of the river that had a large town on its banks. Here were many house on some pretty big stilts so am guessing the river can rise a fair bit when it rain heavily. Here also found a number of houses that had been built on platforms that floated on top of the water and had the houses built on them.
Had a short stop here to buy some supplies and have a toilet break before setting off again. From this point the river was pretty wide and lots of small towns popped up along the way. At one point even passed what looked like a brick house on stilts and a budhist temple on stilts.
As we continued the water way got wider as we reached the lake and once again we followed a narrow path through some shrubs to reach the main lake. Read somewhere that this lake is pretty big and that a number of villages that are totally built above the water (no land in sight) can be found here.
Soon arrived at the dock where we disembarked and had to look for a ride into Siem Reip which was about 11km away.
Found I enjoyed this river trip a lot more than the one to the Laos border. In part this was because the river here was a lot narrower and more full of life. Especially like the part where we went down the more channel with trees brushing the boat as it moved along. As a result would definitely recommend this trip over the one in Laos.