Tuesday, March 8th ~ Battambang, Cambodia
Already Cambodia is showing another side to her personality and we are warming to each other – both literally and figuratively as the temperature has been in the high 90’s with 50% humidity.
A long seven hour bus ride took us from Phnom Penh to Battambang.
Situated along the banks of the Sangkae River, they have a history linked to Siam (now Thailand) as well as the French which is evident in some of the local architectural style. Rice is their primary product, with tourism coming in at second place.
We are staying at the Star Hotel for two nights.
The room once again is rather basic, but the bed is comfortable. The bathroom and shower are combined into one room, so everything gets soaked when you shower. The water is heated by a wall mounted unit. We had to use a bit of caution to avoid slipping on wet tile floors, but otherwise managed fine.
We had the option of free time this afternoon or take a tour through the countryside via Tuk Tuk for $15 per person. This tour would also include a ride on the “Bamboo Train” which had been highly recommended by National Geography TV Channel according to our literature.
First stop was to see one of many Buddhist temples found in the city. Cambodia is almost completely a Buddhist country with a very small percentage of Christians and Muslims.
Our next stop was to learn how rice noodles are made. After the rice is softened by soaking in water, it is heated and forced through a sieve using manpower (human weight). The noodles are briefly boiled, then gathered into individual servings and artfully layered in a large bowl to be sold to a local restaurant. At least the ingredient list is simple: Rice and water!
This little cutie was shy, but went about eating as we watched her family make noodles.
Please note there is a BIG difference between “typical” and “traditional” homes.
Mrs. Bun Roeung’s Ancient House
Our next stop would be considered a “traditional house style” from before the Khmer Rouge. The owner of the home was from a prominent family and the home shows wealth. The flooring was made of solid mahogany with ironwood beams. Sadly she lost her parents and siblings during the purge.
But the highlight of the afternoon was a ride on the Bamboo Train also called Norry.
What a kick! Now if you are envisioning about anything that even closely resembles a train, other than a vehicle running on tracks, you would be mistaken.
This was a VERY basic mode of transportation that could be easily assembled and then disassembled if you met a “train” coming from the opposite direction. With only one track, the train with the lightest load would be taken apart and removed from the track, allowing the other to pass by.
Made up simply of two axles with a set of wheels and topped with a bamboo platform. In the original form, they were propelled by human manpower using a bamboo pole. Today they use a small go-cart motor.
Picture yourself going zipping along at 31 MPH down a line of tracks that are quite irregular, bumpy, and nothing around you except for the laughter of your fellow riders, and you will have a fair image of our trip. Add on an interruption along the journey to disembark, disassemble and wait for numerous “cars” coming the other way where we waved and smiled from trackside. Then reaching our turn around point, stopping to watch the sun set, enjoy a couple of cold beers or soft drink, take fun photos, and then climb back on for a ride back in the dark.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that I did not give up on Cambodia too soon. She is starting to blossom and I think we may become friends after all.