09.11.2010 - 11.11.2010 25 °C
The next day we get up at six to take the boat to Battambang. The boat ride itself is supposed to be lovely, but we are unlucky enough to get seats next to the unbelievably loud boat engine, which means that we cant speak during the ride, and couldn’t hear what the other person said afterwards, as we had gone half deaf. Nevertheless, we see villages on stilts on the river, fishing boats and lots of happy waving kids so it’s not too bad. We use the weirdest bathroom so far on this journey, which is a booth over the water with a square hole in it and nothing underneath but the river. Charming.
The lonely planet has talked up Battambang big time. We are expecting something along the lines of Luang Prabang or Hoi An, a cute little town, lots of colonial French buildings the guide says. When we get there we are deeply disappointed. It’s a smaller version of Phnom Penh. The thing I ended up liking most about this place is that they are very friendly, there is no hassling so you feel less like a walking ATM machine, all the kids love shouting hello and we are greeted by big smiles from old and young. We wander around on the first evening and decide to take a look at a Wat (temple) before getting something to eat with the german couple, who accompanied us on the boat trip and are staying at the same hotel as us. We find ourselves surrounded by curious monks who are eager to practice their English. One of them has a very good grasp of English and is so keen to speak it that the words tumble out of his mouth. He tells us about where he is from, a small village, and why he wanted to become a monk. He says as opposed to Laos and Vietnam, where they only learn about the Buddhist religion, in Cambodia they also learn many other subjects similar to a normal school. It was the best chance for him to have a proper schooling.
The next day we take a tuk tuk out into the countryside around Battambang, to see rice paddies and villages. We stop at a place where they make rice paper. There are two ladies making the sheets, pouring a rice liquid onto a hot plate where it forms a pancake, then laying them in the sun to dry. It’s hot, there is a fire. They get USD 2.50 for a hundred sheets. Their children are playing in the shade. I wished I had some pens or some toys for them.
We see some boys fishing in the river. Nico wants to take photos so we stop, and they laugh at him sitting in awkward poses to get the best angle. Then we go for lunch, and we invite the tuk tuk driver to join us. He tells us about himself, his English is better than the guide we paid in Siem Reap. He talks about politics in Cambodia today, about his family and about his future aspirations, which is becoming a tour guide, so that he can earn better money to help his family.
In the evening, we go for a last supper with the german couple, as we leave for Koh Kong early the next morning, and they head back to Bangkok to fly home.