Battambang is a small city with not a huge amount to do, other than sit in one of the bars or cafés and watch the world go by. We walked around the town in about half an hour, which gives you an idea of the size of the place. As usual Katy found a market to drag me around, where they had everything ranging from ivory ornaments and t-shirts, to saucepans and motorcycle parts. There was even a beauty salon in the middle of it, but even after offering to pay for Katy to get her hair cut, she wasn’t tempted for some reason.
What it did have in abundance were chemists and walk in hospitals, offering everything from rectal probes to blood tests. Not something that we were in need of at the time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a concentration of chemists before, so the locals are either very ill or hypercondriacs.
We went to a Cambodian festival which was just outside the city while we were there, and let’s just say that it wasn’t Glastonbury. We were told that it started at 3pm, so we decided to arrive at around 4pm to give it time to get going. When we did arrive, there were only about 4 other people there and the bands were just doing sound checks. On the bright side there was no queue for the beers, so we just sat and watched a Cambodian reggae band get ready for their set at 1am.
There was a VIP bar that overlooked the main stage which was only $1 entry, so we decided to take a look. Annoyingly we weren’t allowed to take our beers up with us, and inside they only sold Champagne and wine for $5 each. When you compare that to $0.50 a beer, we decided to go and get another beer and sit on the grass. It did eventually get busier, and we were treated to Cambodia’s version of Michael Buble, which I have to say was pretty awful.
The place was filled with kids and policeman with body armour and guns, which seemed a bit of a strange mix. There was a lunar eclipse that night, which I think was the first that we’ve ever seen. Although it wasn’t the best festival, we had a good time, and it was a non-profit event with all proceeds going to the local kids.
The next day we got a bus to Siem Reap, which took about 6 hours. The hostel we checked into was quite a nice place (or so we thought). It was right next to the main street (Pub Street) where there are loads of bars, restaurants and shops.
As we were only due to be in Siem Reap for four days, we booked our trip to Angkor Wat for the next morning. It was a 4am start to get there for the sunrise, and as I’m sure you can image, we weren’t looking our best that morning. So we were thrilled to find out that they needed to take a picture of us to print on the ticket before entering the temple complex. Although mine didn’t look great, Katy looked like someone on Britain’s most wanted.
For those of you that don’t know, Angkor Wat itself is an early 12th Century temple that is a three tiered pyramid with five lotus towers about 65 meters tall. It is surrounded by over 50 other temples of varying size and importance. Angkor was the capital of the Khmer empire between the 9th and 12th centuries. History lesson over…
At sunrise we were there with 1000’s of other tourists fighting to get a decent spot to take pictures. Katy had a Chinese woman in-between hers legs at one point, and a rude Italian woman almost pushed me into the lake to try and get in front of me. We quickly escaped Angkor Wat, and went to another temple which was deserted.
To say that the place is big is an understatement, and it’s an amazing place to be. It was over 30 degrees that day, so we were glad that we had hired a tuk tuk to take us around. We were considering taking bikes, but I think with the early start and the weather, we wouldn’t have got too far.
We were there for about 14 hours that day and saw over 20 temples; taking almost 500 pictures in the process. We were quite surprised that you were actually allowed to climb all over the temples, as most of them are in ruins. Katy also bought a rubbing from one of the temples for $7, before we saw someone else selling the same one for $1. Nothing like a good bit of haggling. As beautiful as the place is, it is marred slightly by the amount of people there. For sunset we had to stand in a queue for 30 minutes to get into the last temple, and there were hundreds behind us that were not so lucky. After a very long day we had a few well-earned beers in the evening before going to bed and looking forward to a lie-in in the morning.
We were woken at 7;15am by a jackhammer directly above our bedroom in the hostel. Building works were taking place in the hostel, and we were told that it was to continue for another two weeks. As we had decided that we wanted to stay in Siem Reap for Christmas, we decided to check-out. We treated ourselves and moved into a nice hotel, with a pool.
Since then we’ve been chilling out for a week, sunbathing, eating and drinking. We’ve thrown in the odd bike ride in the country to try and burn some calories, but to be honest it’d been nice to do nothing. We’ve really enjoyed our time here as it’s quite a lively city, with so much to choose from in terms of food, shops and nightlife
Christmas here is pretty much non-existent, which is quite refreshing for a change. We were chatting to a local guy who asked what Christmas was. After explaining as best we could, he then asked “so are you going to it then?” That sums it up really. We went to a bar called the FCC to try and book Christmas dinner, but then found out that it was $55 each. We settled for a couple of gin and tonics before leaving. The token Irish bar is offering a turkey dinner, but it may end up being a local curry and beer.
So it’s Christmas Eve, we’ve got our santa hats on and we’re ready to party. We’re off for a nice meal tonight in a place called The Sugar Palm, which is supposed to be the best Khmer restaurant in town. We want to wish everyone a Happy Christmas. We’re heading to Southern Laos on the 27 December, so we’ll be in touch in the New Year.
Until the next time…