We spent the weekend in Battambang (pronounced Battambong). Somewhere we had never even heard of a week ago but here we are… It’s quite a sleepy little town with some great French and Italian colonial houses, more typically Cambodian than Siem Reap and with a growing arts scene.
It was really hot and humid so we made the most of the pool!
The highlight of the tourist attractions was a visit to the bat cave where we saw the daily migration of upto 8 million bats from their cave, they swarm and fly across the sky in search of mossies, yesss……. and come back before dawn, true bats. By the time we got there they were already active inside the cave (the brown specs above) and just after 5.30pm a ‘river’ of bats came flooding out.
The other thing we really enjoyed was a visit to the only (?) winery in Cambodia. They grow Shiraz and produce both red wine and brandy. Nick could happily drink it but then he drinks Retsina which many wouldn’t. If it was marketed under a different name instead of ‘wine’ it might succeed, for now not with my chateaubriand or Tom Yum.
We then got carried away with the tourist activities and went on the bamboo train. A short ride on very simple wooden cars on the disused railway line. Not top of the list but you only know that once you’ve been. The swish hairstyles are due to the wind when riding the tuk tuk.
2 punctures in 2 days!
BBQ rats anybody?? Our tuk tuk driver, Nick was keen to explain that these are field rats living of rice (not city rats living of rubbish) and as such a nice meal. He also rates bats as a tasty meat.
We stuck to the roasted bananas that we bought on a stick from a street stall and had trouble peeling them to get to what little fruit there was inside, but no that’s not what you do, just eat them whole skin and all, figured that when girls looking on had the giggles, not sure we will be bring this one back to Oz, nor the roasted bugs on sale on the side of the road but maybe after a year we might change our mind, or maybe not… A couple of days later realise that the bananas are peeled before roasting which is why you eat them whole, somehow they look and taste as though they have skin, even Malene thought the same, not me having a seniors moment.
On our last night we caught up with Morrison and Robert and a few friends of theirs at Bric a Brac, their new B&B in the old quarter. Super nice and stylish! The guys moved from Sydney to Battambang last year as most of their work is in Asia. For anybody interested check out www.globetrottinggourmet.com for details of the hotel and their foodie trips around Burma and Vietnam. This is also where I earlier had my ‘moment’ as described by Nick below.
More notes from Nick:
Goodbye SM hello Battambang
Wish it was that easy. But first the food in Siem Reap was a little disappointing. To judge Cambodian food on our experience so far might be unfair, it could be that we struck bad luck with the restaurants of our choice or that just like in Cyprus the tourist areas never have the best food, but we will see.
To get to Battambang we caught the bus. It’s a four hour journey with Cambodian karaoke on the TV all the way but despite the age of the bus we were pleasantly surprised as to how comfy the whole journey was. We will now get the next bus to Phnom Penh on Monday and see how that is, at an average price of $10 it’s a reasonable mode of transport.
Had our first walk round Battambang and the same sweltering humidity as when we visited the temples in SR. Believe it or not but Malene bumped into a couple of guys she knew from Sydney through work and who have opened a little hotel here right in the centre, fancy that. We dropped in to see their place which by the way was fantastic, a restored old building right in the centre but this is where Malene did her act… not having had decent food combined with the heat, the travel, lack of protein and loosing all our minerals through our pores brought Malene down. The one who never gives up and has to see and do everything, finally gave up. She literally collapsed in a pile while visiting her friends at their hotel and I had to pile her into a tuk tuk for the 300m back to our hotel. An infusion of Tom Yum soup, some rehydration sashes and all good again. Tomorrow we hope to do the wine tour, we’ll visit the one winery which from all accounts has not very nice wine, but that’s not so important.
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