Back in Battambang, Cambodia 2014

On our way to the border at Poipet, we stayed for two days in Battambang, a city that intrigued me when we made an unplanned stop there back in 2012.

We booked two seats on a Golden Bayon Express van from Phnom Penh to Battambang for 15.95 euros. This was much more comfortable than the unairconditioned bus we took in 2012.

We already knew that there were many hotels near the bus station and that prices would be more negotiable in person so we didn’t bother with booking in advance. The touts began shouting for attention and pressing signs offering accomodation against the windows before the van had even made a complete stop. I hate having signs shoved in my face while I am worrying about making sure that I am getting all my luggage off the van. One young man stood apart from the others, holding his sign in silence. When he made eye contact with me, he said quietly, “This one has swimming pool”. Sold. Let’s go.

Seng Hout Hotel was good value and I feel comfortable recommending it.
Pros:
– Open air pool on the 3rd floor
– SKYPE WORKED in our room enough for a video call!
– rooftop lounge area where you can order food or drinks (but see note below)
– small cafe in reception area, good place to get coffee in the morning
– rooms were very clean
– cheap. We paid 12 euros a night but price varies by size of room and your negotiation skills.

Cons:
– our room did not have a window so it was a little dark
– the phone for ordering food on the rooftop lounge never worked so we had to walk down to reception

After a quick dip in the pool, I left Micheal alone to get some work done in the room and took Little Nomad out for a walk. It is a short distance from the hotel to the Sangker River. There is a wide sidewalk that lines the bank of the river in this area which was perfect for slow strolling with L.N. napping in his pushchair. Tuk tuk drivers do not pester you in Battambang so I was left alone with my thoughts.

I once saw a madwoman sitting on the sidewalk here when we visited in 2012. Her long hair was matted and her clothes were filth covered rags. She was muttering to herself and pulling on her hair. The area around her seemed filled with negative energy (I don’t say things like that very often). The sight so disturbed me that I crossed the street to get away from her and never wrote about it on this blog. 2 years and 18 days ago. Would the sight still affect me so strongly now?

On this day in 2014, I saw no homeless or beggars along the river front, only tuk tuk drivers trying to nap in their vehicles in the afternoon heat. I heard chanting and turned my attention to the street where I could see a large funeral procession. The air was thick with the smell of incense. The funeral was for a buddhist monk. It seemed disrespectful to stand and stare so I sat down on a bench and waited for them to pass. My sleeping child next to me. Life and Death.

Toward evening, Micheal was coaxed away from working on his laptop with the promise of dinner. There were new street food carts along the river that we had not seen in 2012. Taco Tuk Tuk looked appealing but I had promised myself to try more Khmer food on this trip so we went in search of a restaurant. I was determined to find a dish that I actually liked in Cambodia having failed thus far. I have now added sour fish soup to the list of foods I don’t like. Khmers seem to really enjoy sour citrus flavours and I do not, at least not when mixed with not very fresh fish. I will keep trying.

Wat Ek Phnom

Remember that quiet tout? He also does tours. Early the next morning, he was waiting outside the hotel to take L.N. and me to Wat Ek Phnom, the 11th century ruins of a Hindu temple, located 11 km outside the city. You will pay around $10 for a tuk tuk to Wat Ek Phnom.

While not as large and impressive as the ruins of Ankhor Wat, Wat Ek Phnom has the advantage of being uncrowded and, at least on the day we visited, completely free of people trying to sell you something. The admission fee is $3 and there are no guides. You are free to wander around as long as you like.

Wat Ek Phnom in Battambang, Cambodia.
I bet Indiana Jones never had to carry a toddler in a sling.
Carving in Wat Ek Phnom.
The Churning of the Ocean of Milk

The carving above is from a story in Hindu mythology called “The Churning of the Ocean of Milk” (Samudra manthan). It depicts the demons (asuras) and gods (devas) using the serpent, Vasuki, as a rope to turn Mount Meru and churn the Ocean of Milk. If you need help visualizing what this would have looked like, take a look at this short video clip from the Om Namah Shivay TV serial.

After exploring the ruins and the newer Buddhist temple also on the grounds, it was time to head back to town. Our driver was pretty insistent that we stop at one of the homes with drying rice paper outside.

Rice paper discs being dryed on a mesh covered frame.
Rice paper drying in the sun.

This is usually one of the stops on any of the tuk tuk tours that go to Wat Ek Phnom or the crocodile farm. You get to see how the rice paper wrappers are made and an opportunity to buy some freshly made spring rolls. Our guide was given free spring rolls for bringing us, hence his insistence in stopping. The spring rolls were delicious and I bought more to take back to the hotel.

Woman grinding rice to make spring roll wrappers.
Making rice paper.

There were other places that I would have liked to have seen in Battambang but they will have to wait until our next trip. Perhaps we will be back in 2016? Two trips to Cambodia and we still haven’t been to Siem Reap yet.

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