We just on the tuk tuk and headed out of town, to our sadness though we learnt that the kayaking place was closed over the holidays, we looked at each other outside of the building wondering what on earth to do when our driver suggested we visit the Banan temple and maybe a couple of the attractions nearby. We agreed quickly and were on our way again, about a half hour down the road we saw a very long flight of broken downstairs that were the entrance to the temple. Vana just smiled at us again and gestured to us to head up the stairs, and after grabbing a bottle of water from the sellers who seem to be at every possible tourist place we headed up. The stairs weren't even but also weren’t too broken or hard to climb, as we headed up a few people were headed down but there actually weren’t that many people around which was nice and heading up those stairs required a few breaks, for photography of course, not to catch my breath…
Upon reaching the top of the stairs we had a great view over the surrounding area! Farmland and towns spreadout beneath us, Kristy with her very sharp eyes spotted this amazing lizard, which we later believe was translated as a chameleon, indeed its body was a beautiful blue with the tail very much tree colour. Apparently it’s very rare to see these lizards so we counted ourselves very lucky. The Banan Temple was built on the top of the hill between the 11th
Centuries. The temple is very worn but parts of it are still standing, sadly though all the faces of the Apsara (female statues) were smashed by the Khmer Rouge (oddly the overly large breast and rest of the body were unharmed), also destroyed were the Buddha statues, you could see pieces of feet, body and arms among the rubble. There was still a monk up one vaguely intact part of the temple, the splash of orange and yellow from his umbrellas, robes and incense brightening the stones and rubble, a reminder that the Khmer Rouge did not succeed in destroying the Khmer culture. The only other reminder of the Khmer Rouge are the landmine warning signs that line the forests either side of the steep steps. We were lucky to have the temple to ourselves as the day was so quiet, only as we started to head down did we start seeing more visitors, including khmer girls in high heels, I’ll never understanding why you’d go to the temples (or anywhere you’d be walking unsteady paths) in high heels.
Once again at the bottom of the hill and slightly warm from out excursion we looked to our tuk tuk driver Vana for suggestions on where to go next. He suggested Cambodia’s one and only vineyard and winery, how could we refuse? We headed back grateful for the breeze driving generated when our driver took a sudden right across a pretty bridge over a river. We stopped here for photographs and to see the Wat. What surprised me most was the number of bats around this area the trees were full of them all, some still flying around even though it was day time. Kristy doesn’t like bats because of bat rabies…. Sorry Kristy, I should use the correct term… Lyssavirus I believe. Luckily for us though none of them ventured past the treelines and we continued our way to the winery unharmed.
The winery isn’t exactly up to Australian standards but there’s vines some of them with grapes still on and a little shaded area to sit and try the wine, infact there were four things to try, one red wine, a brandy, grape juice, and ginger juice. For $1 you got to try a little of all 4. The grape juice was nice and sharp and not overly sweet which was great, the ginger juice is always nice. The brandy actually tasted of brandy and wine well….. let’s just say for a red wine it was very sweet and not really my taste.
Heading back into town for lunch we sent our tuk tuk off for a couple of hours and had time for some nice khmer food, a great fruit shake and even a mocha freeze (kinda like a frappuccino) which the local café run by a ex AYAD had. Meeting up with our Vana again we headed to the main highlight of Battambang tourism, the Bamboo Railway. This old fashion form of transport is used by the locals as the trains no longer run. The "carriage" consists of 2 sets of wheels, a
bamboo platform and a small motor on the back, probably not the safest thing in the world and it can go up to 30km an hour. The great thing about these trains is if two meet on the tracks going opposite directions they judge who has the lighter load and that person has to take everything (and everyone) off dismantle his train off the tracks, then when the other has passed put everything back on. Luckily it takes about 5mins to pull the train apart and put it back together. We arrive at the “station” and a tourism police charges us money just for being there then we had to pay our driver for the trip. Our driver didn’t speak a word of English so we just piled onto out little train and off we went! It was fun, you were really close to the tracks and could hear every click and bump but the scenery was beautiful and villagers were walking past the tracks heading home. We went for about half an hour until you came to a
village where people are trying to sell food and drink an children want to give you a tour of the village. Kristy and I weren’t interested in the kids tour, I don’t like having kids as tour guides and avoid it whenever I can. So we walked around the village for a bit and saw that they made bricks, probably the villages main source of income. Heading back to the tracks our diver put our train back on the tracks and we started the ride home, which was even better as the sun was just starting to set as we headed home. It wasn’t quite a full sunset once we got back and Vana being a great guy stopped in a random field on the way back and let me take some photo’s of the sunset with the tuk tuk and a random cow. What was even cooler was that the sun was setting on one side of us as a rainbow was sitting on the other. A very magical moment…
But if you think that was the end of the day your mistaken, I told you it was going to be a busy day. We had a short rest a little food and prepared to head out again… This time to a circus, seriously! Battambang has its own circus, a goup of kids train and create a show. These kids have also toured a lot, most recently in France. Their performance was great including
acrobatics, flexibility, dance, music and of course comedy! The two 'clowns’ were brilliant and the young kids down the front really loved them. But also even during the acrobatic acts they included a story for everyone to follow. One of them was an older boy and younger, who acted our sibling rivalry, including one part where the older boy put his hand on the head of the younger boy so his short arms then could no longer reach him… This reminded me of my own childhood and a certain sister who use to do this to me, not naming and names, Sarah….
The circus was a lot of fun and great performance, after we had dinner there too, but honestly I was still full and sleepy so once we headed home I simple collapsed into bed ready to sleep, knowing that the next day I would be leaving Battambang and heading back to the big smoke. I’d miss that place, the clean air the relaxed attitudes and the lack of traffic but it was time to get back to work.
We awoke slowly the next morning, a quite morning to catch up on our busy lifestyles. Breakfast was in town at yet another nice little café. We had decided today to go kayaking down the river and after breakfast negotiated with a tuk tuk driver, called Vana, to take us to the place which was about 5km out of town, we had a great tuk tuk driver who was quick to smile and who's friend had loved to use bizzar Australian Idioms like "make like a goanna and go".