Monday, May 3, 2010

Battambang, Cambodia

After visiting the awe-inspiring temples of Angkor, Sunny and I began discussing plans for our next upcoming adventure. I mentioned that I had interests in traveling to the city of Battambang.

"Battam-what?" Sunny said, with a hint of skepticism present within the tone of her voice.

"Battambang," I reiterated. "It's a city just southwest of Siem Reap.

"Okay, well, what do you know or have heard about Battambang?" Sunny inquired.

" really don't know too much about it, actually," I said, knowing that I wasn't selling the idea to well.

"Uh, huh. Well..." said Sunny, before I quickly interjected.

"I just know that it's Cambodia's second largest city, that there's suppose to be a scenic boat ride from Siem Reap, and that there's a old, decrepit train that travels slowly from Battambang to Phnom Penh where we can sit on top of the roof."

Even after Sunny and I were informed that the river was too shallow to travel by boat, Sunny, in her 'infinite, open-minded wisdom' trusted me and agreed to go.

"I can't believe I'm going to Battambang," Sunny repeated. "I definitely didn't think I would be traveling to Battambang on this trip. Where are you taking me, Daigle?"

I laughed.

Sunny had a list of names when referring to me: Daigle, highwayman, earthwalker, etc; however, my first name rarely, if ever, managed to make it onto that list.

Since it wasn't possible to take the scenic boat ride, we settled for the bus. The bus ride from Siem Reap to Battambang was quick and painless. Well, I should say it was 'relatively' painless. After taking a picture of Sunny in Siem Reap while asleep, with her bottom lip slightly ajar, she secretly awaited for her revenge--which she would soon receive. During our bus ride to Battambang, she took a picture of me asleep with my mouth wide open. There's an old proverb that goes, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." And Sunny served it to me ice cold! Damn, she got me good.

After we arrived in Battambang we decided to hire a tuk tuk driver to take us to our hotel, as we didn't have a clue as to where we were. It was a quick ride, to say the least. Our hotel was located literally around the corner from where the bus dropped us off. Tuk tuk drivers are so scandalous.

We stayed at Seng Hout Hotel, which Sunny booked in advance. Our room was by far the nicest room I had stayed in during my travels. I have to admit, Sunny traveled a bit more posh than I was accustomed to. I'm a pretty frugal backpacker who typically stays in the cheapest accommodations and doesn't deviate from the 'cheap bastard' backpacker budget often. It's safe to assume that I made some slight adjustments while traveling with Sunny.

After was got established in our room we hit the streets of Battambang. The city had a certain intangible aura, or vibe, that was alluring. What stood out to me about the city though, wasn't its French colonial architecture, the lack of westerners, or the mere impression that the locals were looking at us as novelties. Nope. What stood out to me about the city was its... cars. Yes, it's cars. Everyone was driving what I drove back in the states: a Toyota Camry. Most of them even looked like the same year and model that I have. It was really strange to witness, at least to me as I have a personal connection with the automobile.

While in search for food to quiet the rumbling in our stomachs, I randomly bumped into someone who I'd met a few months back on a bus ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I even mentioned her in my Pai blog, who I referred to as 'the cool girl' that I sat next to on the bus.

Still on the prowl for some food, I found myself trailing behind Sunny who was quickly and eagerly in pursuit for a proper restaurant.

"This way," said Sunny, pointing down a random street, as I continued to lag behind. Sunny was entrusting her intuition to lead us to a perfect place to eat, which it inevitably did. The name of the restaurant was the White Rose and, man, was it good! Besides the begging bystanders who lurked around, the White Rose had a refreshing aesthetic appeal with green shrubbery and an enticing colorful fruit stand. The White Rose makes THE BEST fruit shakes, not only in Cambodia, but in all of Southeast Asia. Period. The shakes were simply... (spoken in a high pitch while singing) TO..DIE..FOR! Sunny and I highly recommend the coconut shake. Like the slogan for Nike: Just Do It! Trust me, you won't regret it.

One of the main reasons why I wanted to visit Battambang was because of its train. Before I began my travels I saw a YouTube video about Cambodia's last remaining train which appeared to be on its last leg. It was a slow, decrepit looking train that traveled between Battambang and Phnom Penh. It appeared to be an amazing way to see the real Cambodia, as one could ride the roof of the train and take in Cambodia's pretty countryside. And because of that YouTube video, to ride a roof of a train has made it on my list--bucket list, if you will--of things I wish to do during my lifetime. So when we made it to Battambang, I couldn't wait to ride it. Sadly, however, I will have to continue to wait as Sunny and I were informed that the train recently shut down... indefinitely.

So Sunny and I had to settle for the next best thing: the bamboo train. Ah yes, the bamboo train. The bamboo train is constructed out of... well, you guessed it... bamboo. They just throw that bad boy on some wheels and a motor on its rear and... Battambang, Badda Bamboo!... it's ready to roll. It's not just for tourists either; it actually does serve a purpose. The locals use it to transport their goods, as well as themselves, between towns. Sunny and I decided to ride it for sunset--a half hour in one direction, then a half hour back--and it was a hoot. We both really enjoyed ourselves. The bamboo train moved pretty fast, too. I heard that it actually traveled faster than the train... when it was still operating.

All in all, the few nights we spent in Battambang was well worth the visit. Two thumbs up! And one of those thumbs represents Sunny's. Yes, I'm happy to report that Sunny, even though she was a bit skeptical about traveling there, enjoyed herself too. You know I wouldn't lead you astray, Sunny. C'mon, now!!

Next Stop: Phnom Penh, Cambodia


[Video of Cambodia's train]

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