Beautiful Battambang & Amazing Angkor
So north we went. On the longest bus ride since the start of my travels in India! We were headed to Battambang which is a lovely little town to the West of the great Tonlé Sap lake. It had some beautiful French influenced buildings and streets all set along the river with a promenade. It had a totally different feel to where we'd come from, in a good way!
We hadn't really planned to come here as such but due to the bad beach times we were able to and I'm so glad we did. We were lucky enough to meet a fantastic tuk tuk driver, Lize, who spoke very good English and wasn't overly pushy (for a change) who took us out on excursions the following two days. We went to some temples (of course, no visit to a place is complete without seeing at least 8 temples!!!!) and saw the bamboo train which is pretty cool. Basically it's what it says on the tin - a train made out of bamboo. There's only one line however so if two meet going in opposite directions, the one with the least goods & people on has to be dismantled and rebuilt when the other has passed. Crazy! We also ate some great sticky rice from a stall where a lady cooked it within the bamboo and fried bananas mmm!
Later in the day we went to 'boat mountain' which looked NOTHING like a boat but had a temple (!!) on top of it and was definitely NOT a mountain. Amazingly as we were pulled over getting some photos who was to whizz past in another tuk tuk but dearest Russell who we trekked Annapurna with! We knew he was around but to bump into each other in tuk tuks on a random road outside Battambang Cambodia, what are the chances!
We all climbed the 'mountain' together which was all of 100metres high (our driver was impressed when we said we'd climbed 5400 a few weeks back) and had a good catch up. It turned our Russell was in the same hotel as us so we all planned to meet the following day so now we are a group of four
The drive we'd been on to the temples and the 'mountain' was absolutely beautiful. Tuk tuk is a great way to get around, see the countryside, get a breeze to dry the sweat! Cambodia is so lush and green. It's very wet near to Battambang, mainly I expect due to the huge lake which I think almost doubles during the wet season, so there's huge amounts of rice paddies, tall leafy trees, waterlilies and lotus flowers. It's gorgeous.
We did some more sightseeing with Lize the next day and ended our visit to this lovely town by going to the circus! Cambodia is full of NGO projects and organisations and this was one of them. It takes underprivileged children and orphans and teaches them art, drama, circus skills, design, music. It's a fantastic initiative and the show the kids put on was fantastic. It was a great way to end the trip.
We could've stuck around for a while longer, it was nice to be away from westerners again and to see more of the real Cambodia, but alas Siem Reap and the majestic temples of Angkor were calling!
We decided to get the boat from Battambang to Siem Reap. God knows why, I guess we thought it'd be a nice change from the bus and is very scenic. But my god it was hell. It was a million degrees, there were double the amount of people there should've been (of course, this we were expecting) it was uncomfortable, and it went on forever!!!! I read the entire Great Gatsby on the journey though, in one sitting, so I at least gained something from it! But never ever again!!!!!!
Siem Reap was a LOT more built up than when I was last here. Unfortunately now complete with 'Pub Street' yikes. Beer drinking Brit alert!!! We were luckily only here as a base to get the amazing temples at ancient Angkor Wat for the next two days however and it was so worth it. I think it's one of those sites that you can go to again and again and still be amazed and awed. It really is such a beautiful place. The first day we went to the outer temples including Thom Prah which are crumbling ruins with trees growing throughout. The photo opportunities are amazing!!!!! It was so exciting to be back there.
We visited the big one, Angkor Wat itself, for sunrise the second day, and it was just as impressive this time round as five years ago. Walking amongst these relics of the past is something else. You start to imagine how it must've been. And what it would've been like to discover them! But to live in this place, when there were no roads between the temples, no tuk tuks whizzing around, no women calling 'hey lady you wan' cold waterrrrrrr' you can't even imagine. We visited Bayon this second day too and to look at these reliefs that have been carved into every stone, to see the huge faces staring out at you, it really is incredible.
I'm as in love with Angkor Wat as the first time round. It's getting busier and busier with stairways now installed in areas and a lot of scaffolding up on areas which are having work done, but it's just as impressive. Two days is not enough, I'll just have to come back I guess...!
We planned to head even further north to the border of Cambodia and Thailand but unfortunately there are no buses which go this way yet. So we're heading south again, but this time to turn east, into the parts of Cambodia I didn't even realise you could get to. Into the depths of the jungle, to volcanic craters you can swim in, to the areas Apocalypse Now was filmed. The middle of nowhere I do believe!!