On our return to Phnom Penh, we wondered if our positive views would change after our experience in Sinanoukeville, as to be fair, there are plenty of girlie bars and “hello tuktuk!” men. But something about PP makes it all less intrusive, even the girly bars are only identified by their names “69” “Horney Bar” etc…
So our last 2 nights in PP were still good, we had two good tasty meals out, a few good ice creams, and loads of walking around different parts of the city. Phnom Penh is still very much recommended.
On leaving for the second time we headed to Battambang – a 6.5hr bus ride away. To be fair even though it looks chaotic, the Cambodians have this sorted, as we got picked up to the hotel the entire bus ride was only $6. We had good front seats for the lovely scenery en-route, and even the stop had good priced food and drink. The only main issue was the driver made one mistake and had to emergency brake, but the brakes semi-failed and rather than go into the back of a lorry he had to veer on the wrong side of the road to a head-on with another oncoming lorry! Most of the passengers were either screaming or making funny noises, but somehow everyone missed and we carried on.
The driver hit the dash dials as I think his air tank had gone, and when we stopped the customary running repairs took place – with a few compressed air leaks! To be fair, the driver was very good and neither Mel or I (in the front seats) flinched….
For the first time we got to a hotel we had not pre reserved, and fortunately they had room. A reasonably smart hotel, and a big room and bath, all for $15 a night (£9.50). Battambang is a funny place, Cambodias second most populated city, but more like a small UK town, and it is in need of a bit of TLC. But it does have a nice feel to it and was hassle free bar a few people asking for money. We ventured to a night stall area for some local food, and indeed had a very local and very tasty meal, with beer, for about £2.60 for us both. They fortunately had an English menu!
There isn’t much really to see in Battambang unless you love Temples, so after seeing the town (1 day max) we spent time doing thing. We had a morning class at cookery school, learning to make Kymer dishes, Fish Amok, Spring roles, and Lok Lak. Very good value course ($10) as it included a market tour with information on what ingredient was what, and also buying everything we needed fresh. After cooking, we did of course eat the lot – though Mels Tofu dish wasn’t great.
The small-world syndrome continued when after the course we bumped into people we met in the Mekong in Vietnam, and for the evening we went to the Phare Ponleu Selpak circus – which is a human art/acrobatic type circus with very disadvantaged children who also get a good grounded education. The show wasn’t perfect, but even so it was impressive and entertaining and worth the money. As we were full we grabbed a light tea – and astoundingly I had a meat baguette for 50c – 30p!
Our final day in Battambang we opted for a bike ride on the countryside which allowed use to drop into a rice paper making household (which are used for spring rolls), a craft place and to see another Killing Field memorial. Nice again to see lots of genuine kids saying hello, and the odd blown kiss to me from the older girls, but life is pretty tough there. The tour was worthwhile, but the guide was fairly useless – and the bikes were hideous!
Overall though, a reasonably eventful time in Battambang!
See next installment here