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Bouncing Battambang

Thigh Burn


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A Night at the Circus

The trip up North West to Battambang was uneventful apart from the hilarious Cambodian comedy blasting out of the TV. I know it was super funny because everyone else was laughing and I couldn't hear my mp3s. And here was me being good and following the sign on the bus which said, "Keep silent on the bus".

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here

Battambang is a quiet town. I had a long walk along the river, popped into the tourist info office after it had shut and they who were very helpful, and then to one end of the town where I had a beer at the Balcony Bar then realised it wasn't up to much and was getting dark so mooched back past Smoking Pot restaurant where upon I bumped into Peter (from Muang Ngoi Neau) again.

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The currency here in Cambodia is Riel but everywhere so far charges in US$ which bugs me. Apart from it's too easy for people to round up to the nearest dollar (US$1 = 4000 Riel), I much prefer to learn the currency so it was refreshing to see this menu in Riel. I had a quick Khmer amok meal and then I suggested (courtesy of tourist info) we go to the circus at Phare Ponleu Selpak. It's a cultural and multi-arts centre that was set up almost 20 years ago and the circus school around 10 years ago for disadvantaged children and what a great show and what a lot of talent they have, as was also seen beforehand in the art gallery. More info at www.phareps.org

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Stepathon

The next morning after a quick baguette breakfast (WARNING: Don't sit within 2 metres of me when I have a baguette. Crumbs go everywhere when I try to divide one) I got picked up by Chomnan on his 110cc Suzuki Viva who was taking me round a few sights in return for petrol costs and a bit of practise for his English. We hammered out of Battambang on the sealed road and towards Phnom Sampeou forgetting to slow down when the sealed road become very unsealed and almost making my fly off. In fact, I very much bet I did fly off, bounce up and down a couple of times on the seat before coming to rest a few inches shorter than I started. Here's an out-of-body artistic impression:

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here

Many, many potholes later we came to Phnom Sampeou, a hill in the middle of a large plateau with caves in and temples on top. Unfortunately the caves were also used by the Khmer Rouge for prisons and pits to throw bodies into.

To get to the temple at the top there are a very punishing and steep and large 700+ steps. As Chomnan wasn't an official guide when we came to a fork in the ascent we invariably chose the wrong turn, only to rise 60+ steps before re-descending and going up the other prong of steps that continued up to the heavens. Feel the burn! Christ, my thighs were killing at the top (perhaps I should blaspheme to Buddha) and then we went to a cave that was down 80 steps only to find it was more of a depression in the hill and that we have to go back up. I was one sweaty unfit westerner.

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There were even stairs there just for the sake of it that went nowhere....

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Taking the piss

On the way down (phew!), he took me a different way so we could see the cave of bones and again we took the wrong turn, went down half way and came to a Buddha filled dead end and was told by the polite resident rice eating monkey that we have to go back up and take the other set of steps (arrgh!).

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here

Top Banana

When we finally made it to the bottom, I could have slept for days. My legs were wobbly and shaky. We refuelled ourselves with rice before opting against the 36km pothole onward trip to a reservoir further away and chose instead Wat Banan which was kind of on the way back, albeit a different route.

After a few more wrong turns on the bike, we made it to Wat Banana (as they call it),
which was on the top...
of...
a...
fucking...
hill.

With steps.

I should have seen it coming - there aren't too many hills round here - but I didn't as my eyes were firmly on the road looking for holes. Even the official name of Phnom Romsay Sok gives it away as Phnom means Hill.

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ooh, more steps

These were even steeper at various dizzying gradients and half way up catching my breath (it could have been a quarter way) some kids ran up and started fanning me. "Yes, they will do it for $1" said Chomnan. Tell them sod off then. One thing about Cambodia so far is that everyone, bar none, is trying to extract money out of you for one reason or another. I paid at the previous hill to the tourist police and then this hill tried to get me to pay also even though it's included in the ticket for the last Wat. You have to fork out again just to pop into caves up the same hill. When nipping into a wat to see what it's like, someone gives you jasmine or incense as a gift and then asks to pay for that "gift". Grinds my gears alright. Especially after coming from Laos. Although, to try to address the balance, the mattresses in the guesthouses here are comfortably foam than the sand/planks of wood "beds" in Laos.

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Chomnan wasn't very good at directions but his English was sorted at the end

Anyway, I huffed and puffed to the top to be greeted by Angkor Wat-architect designed buildings in pretty good nick so I rested and took in these for a wee while before going down he steps a bit more fitter than the yanks huffing and puffing coming up. Hee hee. Finally made it to the bottom.

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here

Tired, Hungry, Grumpy

And then, after re-hydrating, we set off swerving and avoiding many of the craters on a seemingly endless potholed road back to Battambang. I bought a boat ticket to Siem Reap for the morning, paid Chamnon his petrol and a bit extra (and his lunch earlier - I don't mind paying for good service) and went out for some food. After trudging round on my weary legs for ages, I could not find anywhere open. I did find one bar open with a bill of fare of tasty sounding western food, but the portly Aussie owner told me with a certain delight, as he was tucking into massive pork chops, sausage, mashed potato, peas, carrots and gravy (yes I stared) that it's a new menu and they're going to start serving food tomorrow. The fat lardy bastard!
The only other people who seemed to be eating were the large group at a private street party wedding, which apparently will last three days. Good on 'em. Begrudgingly, I went to bed hungry and shut my eyes, whilst also trying to close my ears and nostrils from the music and food aromas from the wedding below. I smiled and took comfort as I remembered the world's worst rope swing I saw two children playing with earlier.

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Flatface considered this to be his least successful "tarzy"

The next morning I scattered the immediate vicinity with baguette crumbs before boarding the 07:00 five hour boat to Siem Reap.

Seven hours later I arrived in Siem Reap....

.

love n hugs
Suggs xx

Posted by suggs69 07:39 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking

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