Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I'm now sitting, with some difficulty, in the KCT Internet cafe next door to the White Rose cafe in Battambang - it's a decent cafe, good food, but for some reason extraordinarily slow service.
The trip from Siem Reap to here by boat was ... an experience. It started off as a sheer delight - after a 5.30 pickup from the guesthouse & trip down to the port at Siem Reap, I, a few Cambodians and about a dozen or more other tourists got on the boat (the local visitor's guide notes that the boats "in no way meet international safety standards" & they are notorious for breaking down mid-journey). The bike, for which I had to pay $5 extra, was on the roof of the boat, and for a while I sat atop also. For some reason the other passengers were reticent to do which meant I had it to myself for much of the journey. The view was delightful - we passed numerous floating villages, fishing nets, people fishing, folk sailing by in various craft, and for once it wasn't overly hot. After about 4 hours, we pulled in to a floating shop, where we were told that because the water level was too low at Battambang we'd have to get off & complete the journey by road. After our initial suspicion that this was nonsense had been negated by another tourist who'd just arrived from Battambang, we all disembarked via a narrow 10 metre bamboo gangway (me with bicycle in one hand, 2 panniers in the other). All the luggage, including my bike was strapped into a pickup truck, and about a dozen people also crammed in, leaving 4 of us plus a few Cambodians, standing around (I wasn't that keen to jostle my way aboard the pickup). After some strenuous debate that the rest of us could not/would not possibly fit aboard the pickup, another one mysteriously materialised & we clambered aboard. Thus began the journey from hell... along a narrow, potholed, bumpy track - it was the dustiest, bumpiest, roughest trip I think I've ever done in a vehicle - ww were whipped by branches, pounded up & down in the tray of the truck, slashed by the dust ... for about 2 hours, at top speed, enveloped in the usual heat & humidity. People lost hats, one Cambodian had his shirt ripped by the passing branches, I was slashed on the face & arms and even had cuts on my back from the branches. Even talking was difficult - I sounded a bit like Donald Duck at one point, as the vigourous bumping made it hard to breathe normally. I looked like I'd had a session with an S&M exponent during an inspection prior to having a shower after eventually reaching our destination. Today I have an enormous swelling on one buttock and a smaller one on the other from the pounding received from the edge of the tray truck on which I'd attempted to sit

... so today I'm recuperating here in Battambang (I think the name means something like "pounded mercilessly on the arse with a stick"...), which seems like a pleasant, low key sort of place. With about 8 or 9 days to go, I'm now in a quandary as to whether to "kick back", spend another day here & then, after taking my time to cycle the 300 km back to Phnom Penh, spend another week hanging around there, or cycle like blazes & go down to Kampot & Sihanoukville (riverfront & beach regions), and get the bus back ..

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