Archive for the 20/2/2013
We left Phnom Penh about 7am which is pretty early or so we thought, as we were hoping to avoid the traffic, ha ha, no chance, if was just as busy that early to what it was like at mid day!
So off we go towards Battambang, Cambodia’s second-largest city on National Highway 5 for the 5-hour plus ride.
We had to push and shove with everyone else to get out of the city!
Video link above, click on it…..
Some of the roads were pretty bad, big craters, some filled with rocks and broken bricks and dust, loads of it!
Once out of the city the roads were straight,pretty decent and not too busy.
The only things that slowed us down were the roads works, cows wandering on the road, and slow trucks spewing out diesel fumes….
The ride was very hot and seemed so much longer than it was, thus making us feel a little drained…
We stopped at Japanese funded rest stop, hoping to get some lunch and a cold drink, the restaurant was huge…open planned dining hall, and unfortunately nothing appealed to us to eat! We were just after a salad baguette or something along that line anyway, and all that was available was hot food, and it was way to hot for a cooked meal, we ended up settling for a coke!
On each table and hanging all around the vast openings of the restaurant were clear bags filled with water and tied up with a piece of string, at first we thought it was a complementary drink of water… lol, but after discussing what it could be for curiosity got the better of us and we asked the waiter… he said it was for keeping the fly’s away from the food, as they don’t like to see their reflection! (I have that feeling when I look in the mirror in the morning!)
With the icy cold coke finished, we pay for our drinks…We really didn’t want to put our bike jackets back on, it was so hot! but knew we must!, we head out into the scorching sun to get back on to the motorbike and head off for the next 100 kms or so the Battambang.
We head towards where the GPS is telling us where our hotel should be, but we cant find the Hotel, feeling frustrated, hot and hungry we went over the bridge and stopped at a restaurant along side the river for some lunch.
After having demolished a delicious spicy chicken baguette and a cold beer we asked the waitress if she knew where the ‘Coconut Home’ …was, lucky for us she did, it so happens that her as friend works there, so with her directions we find the hotel along an unsealed very dusty road, as we pull into the hotel we are greeted by a pleasant young man and girl, after the usual checking in we were shown our room, which was huge, again with two king size beds! It was basic but clean, which was fine as we only had 2 nights here, after having a shower and changing into some fresh clothes (really wasn’t the brightest thing to do, but it felt good) we decided to take the hotel pushbikes out for a spin!
We head off in the direction of the bridge and cycle towards the town Centre…it didn’t take us long to get hot, sweaty and dusty lol…maybe we shouldn’t have put on fresh clothes!
The town has a strange art deco building for a indoor market…
Feeling drained we stopped for a cold beer….aarghhhh just what you need on a hot afternoon.
Riding back to the hotel and still feeling full from our earlier big lunch we decide that we didn’t to head out again for dinner, and apart from that we were worn out!, so an early night it was, plus with only one full day here we really needed to cram in as much as we could..
The next morning we were up up early and feeling a little famished we head out to the courtyard to order some breakfast.
A couple of minutes later the young boy who took our order came out the door, jumped on a push bike and peddled out of the hotel grounds and to where he was going in such a hurry, we had no idea! After about 5 minutes of waiting for our breakfast, there was still no sign of any movement in the hotel…that’s ok we’ll wait, as we were starving…another 10 or so minutes later the young boy arrived back with a bag in his hand and what looked like takeaway containers inside the bag….lol..He went out to get our breakfast…a few minutes the young boy appeared with our breakfast on plates…it was the most awful breakfast I’ve had on this trip…how could toast with jam and butter on the side,turn out to be a stale jam sandwich…lol…so I went hungry, Clive’s wasn’t so bad at least he got to eat his omelet, and his ‘toast’ was just as stale as mine, so that got sidelined…lol
First on our list for the day is to find the Pepsi factory….
The former Pepsi Cola factory has an interesting history and is an unofficial tourist attraction….
We have a look around the grounds to ask if we could take a look inside, but couldn’t find anyone so we enter through an opened side door …wow the warehouse is huge and still contains some original bottling machinery, plus hundreds of bottles, with Pepsi, Miranda, Singha Soda on the sides of the bottles all piled high in wooden crates, this place is amazing…..
Apparently the ‘Pepsi’ story is that the Thai government at the time signed a ‘sweet’ deal with Pepsi’s competitors, the Coca-Cola Company and only Coca-Cola could be manufactured under license in Thailand. So Pepsi set up a bottling plant close to the Thai border and exported the drinks. This all happened until 1972 when the border became no longer safe and the factory shut down when the Khmer Rouge took over Battambang in 1975.
Now a part of the factory is used for producing fresh drinking water!
Next we got on the bike for number two on our list……
Walking down the dusty path you can see why it is one of the most visited attractions around Battambang.
Wat Ek was built around the 11th century, this is way smaller than Angkor Wat, but gives you a small taste of what to expect if you are heading to Siem Reap to visit the other temples… make sure you where decent footwear as you have to clamber over the ruins, So no high heels ladies!…..
Wat Ek would have be a magnificent building in its day, you can still see a lot of the stone cravings above the doorways, a beautiful peaceful place.
Number three on our list was Wat Somrong Knong which about 6 km from Battambang.
We head down the country lane past lots of children heading off to school for the day all giggling and waving to us as we ride past them.
At Wat Somrong Knong there is a monument to the Khmer Rouge genocide. This building is similar to others in Cambodia; in side the monument is home to numerous skulls and bones all behind a glass window and metal bars on the outside of the glass.
On the base of the monument are ‘pictures’ that graphically portray the atrocities that took place here……
On one of the sides of the monument there’s a script, which reads:
In May 1976, the Khmer Rouge seized the Buddhist temple Wat Somrong Knong, turning it into a prison, and the surrounding area turned into a killing field where 10,008 people were put to death. The prison warden was Son, alias Sot, the executioners were Korlot and Plet. In 1977, Yom became the warden, under whose administration cannibalism was introduced. Poisonous snakes were used to terrify and kill their prisoners, while others had their skulls or chests split open with farm hoes. This monument portrays still other torturers used by the Khmer Rouge to subjugate district 41 and region 4.
The full extent of Cambodia’s tragedy will never be known. The remains of some of the victims of this genocide may never be recovered, nor their murderers identified. But, the gentle and forgiving Khmer, an energetic and optimistic people, will now walk confidently though the well of shadows to reclaim their ancient culture, and restore this beautiful land to become again, the legendary paradise of celestial Apsara’s.
To get back to where we parked the bike we had to pass the old Wat building, which the Khmer Rouge used as a prison, you can’t go as it’s kept locked, just a few meters away a new Wat is being built…it was hard to imagine that a place with such beautiful surroundings could hold so much sorrow, I just don’t get it why do people have to be so cruel and to there own people as well.
We had a great chat with three young boys who were in awe of the bike and they loved it when we said they could sit on it…
Back on the bike again, we head a bit further out of town…roughly 25 km, to Wat Banan.
Once parked, we walk towards the Wat, which is high up on a hill, why do they have to build these Wat’s on the tops of hills?…lol…..
I felt exhausted just by looking at the steps….lol…we stop at one of the drink stalls to get some extra water bottles and then we start the climb, one step at a time!!!
Until we have climbed the 359 steps!
That was hard work, we left this Wat until the late afternoon as we it would be easier to handle in the late afternoon, but we were wrong!it was still hot.
But it would have been worse in the midday sun…
The Wat is made up of four temple towers, and one in the Centre.
The original temple dates back to 1050.
This place must have been fantastic in its heyday…the towers aren’t in bad condition and are pretty impressive; there are also a lot of headless statues, pillaged a long time ago, you get a sense of peace here and its nice to just sit and take in the scenery…and also recover from the steps!
After taking in the Wat and the scenery we make our way down the steps.
Once at the bottom we head over to one of the food and drink stalls and purchase more bottled water and fresh pineapple…
oh my, that pineapple was so sweet and juicy, that we purchase another one!
The last place on our list that we wanted to go today was the ’Killing Cave’ We ride along the dusty, stony tracks with the directions and map that we had been given…
Dodging dozens of cows that were wandering around …
hmmm we seem to be heading further and further away from the caves, after about 20 minutes of bouncing around on the bike on a really dusty,rough track, we come to a dead end, the directions must be wrong!!!
It can’t be that we took the wrong track now can it?…lol…..
So we turn around and ride back hoping to find a track that would lead us back on track!! But know there wasn’t one…we were definitely given the wrong map!
As the light was fading quickly, which would be no good for when we did find the cave, we decide to head back to the hotel…which means we will have to return to Cambodia again ☺
This is a link that will give you some information on the Killing Caves:
Heading into town we decided to stop at a café and have coffee and a piece of cake the more you buy the more it helps the locals! the coffee shop is one of a few here that helps local kids learn a ‘trade’ it also sells local handcrafted articles, lucky for Clive they were too big or heavy for us to carry on the bike…sad for me and the locals though ☹
Next door to the café was a bakery…no we didn’t want another cake!! We thought that as we had had such an unpalatable breakfast at the hotel that morning that we would play it safe and buy a croissant or something…as we want to get an early start in the morning for our ride to Siem Reap…oh no there’s no croissants left at the bakery so we opt for a plain donut!
Next morning we are up early…I make a cup of tea and we head outside to the courtyard with our donuts and tea to eat our ‘breakfast’…. Hmmm what an unusual texture this donut has, its cross between a sponge cake and donut…lol…. at least it was edible.
With the bike all loaded up and our good byes said to the staff we ride off towards Siem Reap, a place we are excited to return too…..