Moving north, being the only white tourist in the town and making it to Siem Reap

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March 15th 2013
Published: March 15th 2013
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Day 175 – 176 (Fri 1st – Sat 2nd March) Phnom Penh

I returned to Phnom Penh after recovering from illness and the Cambodian North East. The bus took a mere 11 hours but it passed quite quickly and wasn’t too boring, although the countryside either side of the main highways here is pretty uneventful. There really is not a view. Either fields are burnt, there is little vegetation, when there are trees they are new borns so no big forests yet, and I think most these trees are grown for rubber so won’t grow for long anyways as demand is high. Anyways I got back to Phnom Penh around 6pm and headed back to the hostel I previously stayed at. I got the last bed in the place which was handy as I was tired and didn’t fancy humping my bags around town looking for somewhere else to stay. I also then went back to the restaurant I liked last time I was here. I was recognised by the staff and 1 by 1 they all came and said hello. They did know straight off that I wanted a jug of Anchor smooth beer which was nice.

My only full day back in Phnom Penh was spent doing what I missed last time. This mainly consisted of the National Museum and looking at a few local temples. The museum was a slight let down. It is not that big and doesn’t really have that many things to command the $5 fee. This will sound incredibly cheap to western standards I imagine (although I don’t go to many museums at home so don’t know) but for here it’s pricey, when the killing fields were the same. I got far more out of that than I did the museum. They had plenty of artefacts but they were all very similar and it got quite repetitive. I was left with the afternoon to fill so I had a look around a mall, not normally my thing but they have air con and it was roasting outside. The mall had a cinema so I decided I’d watch a film to take me into the evening. With it being a Saturday I had entertainment from 8pm as the English footy would be on. I watched the new Die Hard which weren’t actually that bad and it only cost about $2.50 so way cheaper than home. I settled in for a night of football in the hostel bar, ending up quite drunk with the staff.

Days 177 – 178 (Sun 3rd – Mon 4th March) Battambang

Yet another bus and another location. I seem to have been on the move every 2 days or so, spending between 4-11 hours on buses every other day, it is getting incredibly tiring and I feel I’m not always getting as much out of places as maybe I should as I’m tired the other end. I only really get one full day in a place, but that is because I am trying to see as much of the country as I can. Today I got to Battambang, Cambodia’s second biggest city. Found a cheap hotel and had a wander around. On first look there doesn’t seem to be a lot here but tomorrow I will explore it in more depth. I ate in a local Khmer restaurant then headed back to my room to relax and watch the north London derby.

Today I spent wandering the streets like a tramp. Battambang is apparently famous for its statues of which it has many indeed, they line the pathetically stream like ‘river’ which runs through the city, and are in the parks and every major intersection.

I walked around pretty much every street on the map, looking at the temples on show and the Governor’s house, which was a nice building but nothing extraordinary. I’m finding it hard to be excited by many of the buildings I’ve seen here. The temples I’ve seen so many off I think its the pure amount which is making me not quite appreciate them as much. The buildings and the towns I have a feeling are a little let down possibly due to the fact the Khmer Rouge Genocide reign was only 34 years ago which isn’t a long time for an incredibly poor nation to rebuild. Anyways the buildings here aren’t massively impressive. There was however one thing that made my day, it was hilarious.

As I walked across one of the bridges I noticed a bloke on the other side, some may think that normal and generally it is. This guy however had a child’s t shirt on and no trousers. He was stood with the goods out on the main bridge in the city. I was quite taken aback by this and wandered away from the guy along the bridge. I crossed over to his side 50 metres or so down as that was the direction I was going. Next I hear something, turns out the bollocky bloke is now being chased across the bridge by a security guard from the bank on the corner. Turns out the guy got too close to the bank and the guard chased him. The naked guy however was quicker. He’d get far enough away the guard would give up and slowly retreat, then the naked guy would edge slowly back the other direction and be chased again. It really could have been out of Benny Hill. I moved to the side of the river and sat down and watched this for 15 minutes or so, definitely the funniest thing I’ve seen since I left home, you really couldn’t make it up. That was the highlight of Battambang for me.

Day 179 (Tues 5th March) Pailin

I had decided I was bored in Battambang but I was due to meet friends tomorrow so I figured I’d get out of the city for the day. I headed 90 minutes up the road to a place called Pailin. This is definitely off the tourist track. I was the only one in town, it was quite weird and I was being stared at like I had been in China some 5 months ago. The only attraction, being a temple grounds and huge Buddha up on the hill. The Buddha and the surrounds were very nice. At one point I saw a chicken stood in front of a Buddha shrine which I found pretty amusing to say the least. 15 minutes later I bypassed it again and the chicken was sat on its head, unfortunately I only got a picture of it praying to Buddha and not mounting it.

Pailin is more in the hills than most of Cambodia so it was a couple degrees cooler and I had views of nearby and surrounding hills which I certainly enjoy more than a view of empty fields (a lot of the rest of Cambodia). It was a nice little town, with I think 2 guesthouses and 1 place to eat. The only place I could find that look like it had a proper kitchen, not a stove on the street didn’t even have an English menu so definitely not frequented by us tourists. The owner of the place did speak English and he sat and chatted to me for a little bit which was nice. When ordering my food, I asked for a beer. I was brought 6. I obviously drank the 6 but I did ask why they do that. I was told it’s easier to work out how many you’ve had. They basically leave the basket with 6 in on your table until you’re done and count them up, there is no ordering and marking them down as you go. Sort of makes sense but I only wanted 1 or 2 with tea, ended up half cut.

My guesthouse was like a hotel and the room was huge. I got a fairly early night so I could get up 2:45am to watch the United v Madrid champions league match, its handy having your own room and tv when big footy games are on.

Day 180 (Wed 6th March) Battambang

I returned to Battambang this morning although I could have happily stayed up in Pailin a little longer even though there was nothing to do. It was a change of scene and I liked it up there. It was a shame my bus was in the morning, the afternoon would have suited me more. I got back to Battambang anyways and checked into the same hotel and after my overnight football watching I went straight to bed. I felt I’d seen all there was in Battambang and had little interest in spending money seeing things I didn’t want to or doing things I’d already done so I slept.

I met up with Tammy and Jo in the evening for our final meal together. The food was nice but saying bye not so. I’ve met up with them in 8 different cities over the last 2 and a half months and this was the last time. They are going in separate directions and nowhere near me so until I return home that is it. We had a nice meal and a good chat and laugh so it was a nice way to end it. After dinner the girls headed off as they had a 6am bus and I went back to bed. Seems I’ve slept loads in Battambang, really isn’t a lot to do.

Day 181 (Thurs 7th March) Siem Reap

Another day another bus. I have now moved onto Siem Reap, probably Cambodia’s second most known place after Phnom Penh. With having Angkor Wat it could actually be the most visited Cambodian city, it would not surprise me.

I took a brief wander around town to scope out where the main drinking areas where as I’ve been good recently and next week after I’m templed out may well fancy a session. It is not the biggest city in the world and I can definitely cover everything in town on foot I think which is always good, saves on transport and is good exercise.

Spent the rest of the evening beating the Cambodian staff at pool and supping a couple cold beers whilst catching up on the week on here.

Next – Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Preah Vihear (conflict area but cool looking temple) and back to finish Siem Reap

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