Bamboo Trains and Bats!
29.03.2012 - 01.04.2012
My last stop in Cambodia was the city of Battambang, supposedly the 2nd largest city in Cambodia... but im sure Siem Reap was way bigger! But who am I to argue? hehe. On the bus there I met a lovely women called Liz who was 60 and from Liverpool and has been travelling on her own for 6 months! How amazing is that?! We struck up a friendship and shared a room for the 2 nights we were there. The afternoon we arrived, we met a lovely tuktuk driver called Yada who took us to the bamboo train! It is the most hilarious thing ever! It is a carriage made out of bamboo that you sit on, and has some sort of engine on the back and takes you 13km to a villiage! It goes quite fast too!! There is only one track, so when carriages meet, the one with the lighter load is disembled to let the other one pass! brilliant! We got to the villiage and met loads of cheeky children who made us grass jewellry! Cute! The only bad thing was everyone was telling us to tip the driver... we were going to! It just annoying when they tell u to!
The next day I got up extra early and rented a bicycle to find the disused Pepsi bottle factory 1km away. Easy peasy! Well i must of been cycling for 45mins through numerous villages and was sure that 1km did not take that long to cycle! I was following the river and whilst going through the villiages little kids came running out nd waving at me. The scenery was gorgeous! Lucius green trees! Beautiful! Just what I wanted it to be! I finally found a bridge to get me to the other side of the river and headed back to Battambang. Passed some amazing temples, loads of weddings were going on and finally found the Pepsi bottle factory! Unfortunatly I couldnt go in and explre, so was a slght disappointment! But the cycling around more than made up for it! After getting slightly lost on the way back to the city (fret not! those cambodians are the nicest people i have ever met, and pointed me in the right direction!) I made it, had a cycle around until i realised it was nearly 12 - the hottest part of the day and I was starving! Went to a gorgeous, but overpriced cafe which helps disadvantaged youngsters in the city, so i didnt mind paying that little extra! I then headed back to the hotel for a shower and shade in the heat of the day!
Later in the afternoon I had arranged to meet Yada (the tuktuk driver) and he was going to take me around to see temples, and caves on his motorbike! He was such a sweetheart, asking me questions about my life and me too about his. He took me through a Muslim village, the "golden gate bridge" of Cambodia - a tiny blue suspension bridge which barely fits two motorbikes passing each other! We then headed out into the country, driving on the bumpiest roads, and then dirt tracks! Proper off the beaten track and I loved it! All you could see was plains of rice fields with a few mountains in the distance! We reached one of these mountains and I was told by Yada to make my way up the 358 step to the top!!! OH GOD!!! (or OOOHH BUDDHA!!! as they say in asia!) I made it anyway, as painful as it was and the view was lush! The temple was nice, but I was still reeling over the clim to proper appreciate it! My legs quivering, i made my way back down the steps, being careful not to trip!
Yada then took me to another hill/mountain where there was the killing cave. I met another driver Nakim, who drive me up the mountain and told me all about wht happened to the Cambodian people under the Khmer Rouge rule. There was an old temple that they had used as a prison. And then whilst walking down to the cave, there was banners of different coloured materials, which I later found out where remains of the clothes found in the cave. The cave was small, but you could clearly see the hole up above where people were thrown to their deaths, and the skulls and bones had been left there. Chilling. I shed a few tears... It was less explained than the killing fields in Phnom Penh but just as powerful.
Nakim then took me up to the top of the mountain to a gorgeus view pint and all you could see for miles was rice paddies and fields! As it was the dry season, most of them were yellow but a few were green where they had a water irrigation system in place. We stayed up there for about an hour, with Nakim telling me the stories behind the different mountains (Crocodile mountain and Sailing boat Mountain) and then the Khmer Rouge and finally about himself. He told me he was born just after the Khmer Rouge fell, but wasnt able to go to school till he was 11 as they had killed all the teachers so it took a long time to set up the school system again. He said all of his friends did not go to school, as they were embarrased about starting school at 11 with 5 year old kids. He finished high school at 23. He wants to go to university but cant afford to. He hopes he one day will be able to. We headed back down to Yada, who told me of his plight. He is at university studing marketing, but can only afford to go on Satrdays and Sundays because he has to work monday to friday to fund not only university, but his family and himself. There is no support like loans or grants. Yada told me that he had gone to work in Thailand and saves $5000 but on his return to Cambodia had to give most of that to his parents so they could feed his 9 siblings. Through everything though both men had a smile on their face. They are happy to tell their story and dont want any pity. They are hopeful about the future for themselves and their country. They told me that all the good jobs in the cities are taken by Chinese because a whole generation of educated people were slaughtered under the Khmer Rouge and now they have no one able to do those jobs, but hopefully in a few years this will start to change and I really hope it does.
After these insightful talks, we headed down the road to a cave and waited for 15mins until suddenly millions and millions of bats started flying out! There were so many and they were so fast! They kept flying out for half and hour! We moved to a further away round and saw the bats following each other to Tonsle Lake, making it looks like a massive snake in the sky! Ive never seen anything like it! Amazing! But you had to make sure they wernt flying right above you, or it felt like it was raining on you! Raining bat poo!! haha
That evening I met up with Emma, Charlotte and Veronica who had arrived that day and we went out for a goodbye meals, and put the world to rights with our talk of politics and history! Oh i do love it when that happens! The next day I had to get up very early for the bus to Bangkok. My time in Cambodia had come to and end, and I was actually quite sad about it! It has been my favorite country so far, the people are just awe-inspring, especially after their tragic history. Everyone needs to visit Cambodia, it will change your life!!
The journey to Bangkok was uneventful. In no mans land inbetween Thailand and Cambodai there were loads of casinos which I thought was very strange! The bus from the border to Bangko could not be any more uncomfortable if we had tried, 12 of us squished together in a tiny van which no where to put our bags but on our laps, and no aircon. The only saving grace was the driver was driving like a complete maniac, so we got to Bangkok in 3 and half hours, instead of 5.
That evening I met up with Livia (who i met in Chiang mai, Pai and Siem Reap) and Flin (who I had travelling with for 2 weeks in Thailand) Flin was leaving that night soI only saw her for about an hour, but it is amazing how you keep meeting the same people wherever u may go! I then met a few people I had met in Vietnam and Cmbodia and we went to the cinema. A very posh cinema aswell! Before every film they play the national anthem with videos of the king and you have to stand up whilst this is playing! We found this all very funny but tried out very upmost to be respectful! Can you imagine that happening in England? Thought not!
So now Im in Koh Tao, and IM starting my Scuba Diving course tomorrow. Had the most horrendous boat journey here, every second the boat went up and down and my stomach was flipping like I was on a rollarcoaster! Nearly everyone was being sick! I wasnt though, I hadnt eaten anything all day so i was fine! Haha! But I arrived in Koh Tao to realise that I left my passport in Bangkok! DOH! Nevermind, a guy who is staying at the same hostel is coming to Koh Tao tomorrow so hes bringing it for me! Backpackers hey, we are a nice little crew!
Wish me luck with my PADI course, wish those sharks away!
Lots of love,