A 9 hour boat trip across the Tonle Sap and I arrived in Battambang (pronounced as i've found out 'Battam-bong') . The journey was pretty impressive, we passed - be it on the outskirts - the Floating Village and made our way on a pretty big boat through what seemed like very narrow, shallow river (called the Sangker) towards Battambang. The scenery was very beautiful, the Floating Village especially. They literally have everything a normal villages has - homes, businesses, a school, farms (!) - except it all just floats. Amazingly abstract and no doubt hard work, definitely something you have to be born into. Moving on we passed through very remote villages on the water, farming communities and lots of families & children in boats and playing in the river. For 6 of the 9 hours (the boat left at 7:30am) I sat on the roof and although the sun was very hot and I went a tad red, the experience was worth it. It's like one of those stereotypical things you expect of travelling, on the roof of a bus, train or boat cruising through lives and landscapes far removed from our own and I must admit, at some points it didn't seem real.
Battambang itself reminded me of Chiang Mai in North Thailand, similar layout with a river running through it and things being divided into East or West of it. It's a comparatively quiet city and aparently not so touristy - it was hard to tell because the height of tourist season in Dec - Feb in Cambodia so most places seem to be quieter. It was a nice place though and I planned to only stay for 2 nights (the highlight was the journey there for me) so did a day on the back of a bike going round the tourist spots. My guide was guy called Tin Tin (pronounced but not spelt) and he was a bit of a petrol head going amusingly fast over roads disturbingly uneven. He was a very good driver though so I just enjoyed the ride through dusty tracks and across lush farmland. We spent the day visiting a temple on a mountain (Phnom Sampeu), visiting the Killing Caves, trekking up to what's known as 'mini Angkor Wat' (Wat Banan), locating a swarm (?) of Fruitbats - dogs was wings - and ending the day with a trip on the Bamboo Railway. It was a pretty good excursion and I think atleast I took some good pictures.
I've now moved onto the capital Phnom Penh (where I write this) and i'll probably end up staying here for maybe 4 days, there's a few things of interest I want to see. It's pretty much the opposite of Battambang and resembles Bangkok more than anything else in terms of hecticness, noise and traffic, but nether the less, it seems good. I haven't explored today because the bus was slow getting here and there was a mega thunderstorm, the water on the corrugated roof was a relentless noise - like natures static - for over half an hour. Tomorrow i'll do some exploring but tonight i'll reside in my guesthouse infront of their abundance of pirate movies.
Oh and before I forget, a lot of Cambodia's recent history revolves around the Khymer Rouge - a violent regime that wiped out 20% of the population of a 3 year reign of terror. It's a pretty disturbing read (especially how recent and widely unreported it was) and I need to brush up on it myself but alot of the stuff i'll be seeing in Phnom Penh (and what I saw in Battambang, eg The Killing Caves) revolves around them. Google: Khymer Rouge.
I will be in touch. X