Bangin' Battams in Battambang
Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
195Trip End Feb 28, 2013
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Battambang, Cambodia March 9 through March 11, 2012
SICK SICK SICK
HOT HOT HOT
Mostly I slept and slept a lot. By the third day, I was up and around and able to enjoy a 11AM brunch at the Gecko Café balcony overlooking an intersection and a million electrical wires with birds nesting in them.
Battambang is one of the largest cities in Cambodia but really has a small town feel. There are a number of restaurants targeting westerners in Battambang. We stuck to those. One restaurant even made a valiant attempt at burritos. It has few tall buildings, little commercial development, and dirt alleys connect the grid of paved streets. The shops close very early and the streets become deserted. It doesn’t feel like 2012 here.
Battambang is a tourist destination with nearby new and ancient Buddhist temples and shrines, Angkor era ruins, killing caves and the infamous bamboo railway. We came here to use it a starting point for a day long boat ride along the river between here and Siem Reap. Our friend Henrik highly recommended it as a way to see simple life in and along the river.
Everything is priced in U.S. Dollars and the ATM’s in Cambodia dispense U.S. Currency. Change, when less than a dollar, is given in Cambodian currency, 'Cambodian Riel’. Everyone automatically converts 4000 Riel to the dollar when giving change.
RIDING WITH SOPHEAP "DJ" - Cell 012255983
And it was scorching hot out in the midday sun. I wasn’t up for a big day on bicycles or a motorcycle. We trimmed back our ambitions for seeing the town and scheduled an afternoon with a tuk-tuk driver for a scenic ride to Wat Ek Phnom, an 11th century Angkor / Hindu style temple ruin, 15km northwest of Battambang.
DJ turned out to be a great driver and guide. His English can be a bit hard to understand and his vocabulary is limited. He readily stopped when we wanted to stop, and he acted as an interpreter. Often guides will make up answers to questions. DJ relayed our questions and relayed back the answers from the people we visited.
Next Stop, Rice Paper Skins. Once outside of Battambang, we began to follow a pretty tree lined lane along the river. Many of the houses had tortilla size discs of rice paper drying in the sun. We told DJ we wanted to take a closer look. DJ brought us to a family he knew. The women were preparing them. They start with 50 kilograms of rice flour and water they let sit for up to three days. It thickens as it stands. Then they ladle the thin white mixture onto damp tightly stretched cloth stretched over steaming pot heated over a fire of smoldering rice husks. The steamed rice pancake is then draped over a roller to cool slightly before another woman transfers it to a grid shaped rack made of bamboo. Once the pancakes fill the rack, they move the rack to a spot in the sun to dry. Once dry, they are stacked in a basket and taken to market. They make a thousand or two a day and get a pittance for them. All the ladies around this area make the rice paper pancakes in their spare time. They are used as the skins for the spring rolls. We have posted a video of that process too.
Wat Ek Phnom Temple; Continuing up the lovely route, we passed motorcycles, carts, and bicycles hauling all sort of stuff and being used for all sorts of chores. We rolled in to the entrance of Wat Ek Phnom.
We paid our $2 entrance fee and briefly visited new Buddhist temple nearby that is a mere 50 years old. Then we walked over to the thousand year old temple and began climbing over the rubble to get inside the remaining structure. There were no restrictions on where we could walk or what we could climb. Inscription and carvings adorned some of the door and window openings. The entrance of the a small room with a chimney like opening to the sky had a small Buddhist shrine with incense burning, leaving the impression this is still considered a holy place.
Wat Ek Phnom
Date: early eleventh century
King: Soryavarman I (1002-1049)
Posthumous Name: Paramanirvanapada
Preparing Dried Bananas. We asked DJ to stop again so we could take a picture of sliced bananas drying in the sun.
Stinky Fish Prep Factory; DJ took us back to Battambang a different way, As we crossed the river, we passed a horribly putrid smell. DJ asked if we wanted him to stop so we could visit the fish processing factory. We felt like gagging from the dead fish smell and told DJ to speed up as we held our breath. DJ grinned and laughed.
Bamboo Sticky Rice. We came to the zone where the ladies make and sell bamboo sticky rice. They stuff sticky rice mixed with bean paste or coconut into a freshly cut tube of bamboo. They make the day's supply in the morning and it is best if eaten the same day. We didn’t have an opportunity to see them made but we bought two to snack on during the boat ride in the morning.
Bamboo Train. We got back into the city and over to the Bamboo Train on the south side of the river. Cambodians, under the Khmer Rouge control, suffered destruction of most of society including roads and the rail system. The local people improvised short transportation systems from the remaining rail tracks. We visited the ‘start’ of this bamboo train along a dirt path.