Monday, 26 January 2015

The Cambodian Queen

Battanbang was fun. We'd thought we might stay 2 days, it turned out to b 5. Any town where you can get a delicious dinner for 50p, a haircut as good as any other for 80p and a head spin inducing Margherita for £1.30 is pretty good in my book. Chuck in a few interesting people to chat to in the bars, some temples to explore and a buzzing Asian vine (but in a laid back way?) and it made for a great few days.
We took the boat to Siam Reap, yes I know we're supposed to be cycling but it would have been about 200km of horrible, noisy, busy highway riding along the hard shoulder and we just didn't fancy that. Chatting to a fellow Aussie cyclist ( who lives in the little street we first lived in in Sydney- what are the chances of that?) the hills in Laos will more than make up for our current lame record of actually doing any pedalling at all.
The boat ride was an experience in itself mind you. A pleasure cruise it was not! 
Due to the low water level during the dry season, the 60 seater vessel needed to wheedle its way down the river, lurching about as it slipped (hopefully) over the muddy banks or river bottom. The families of fisher folk who choose to make the river banks their home were the usual super friendly Cambodians - the little kids waving and shouting hello as the parents toiled away. It looks like a pretty tough, poor existence for them I have to say. Guilty thoughts about being a privileged rich westerner kept creeping into my mind. Fellow Europeans on the boat sat wearing their ray ban sun glasses, snapping away on uber expensive cameras. Yes, I'm one of them as well (although my sun glasses are cheaper) but at least I know I felt uncomfortable gawping at these poor people, of others, I'm no so sure. Hmm, the strange world we live in eh...

The boat broke down at one point but old capitano got a new, much better bit of string out of his 'special cupboard' and we were soon on our way again. We ran aground about 7 times and I lost count of the number of crashes into the bank, each one thrusting half a jungly mangrove bush into the paying punters. I was genuinely scared quite a few times as the boat tipped sideways and I thought we were going over. We all certainly got our $20 worth! Mind you, there was an Italian family who once they'd taken a few photos, sat there jabbering away, totally un aware of anything happening around them. They may just as well have been in a pizzeria in Milano. Bizarre.

After half an hour off for good behaviour (lunch stop) the river thankfully opened out and we could motor along without clutching on to the seats. Speaking of seats, the flat wooden plank benches made our bike saddles feel like luxury. Overall it was a bit of a day so far...

Once off the bloody boat (it was 10 hours all up), all we had to do was ride the 12km into Siam Reap, find a guest house and go out to explore what was hopefully to be a very interesting town. Well that's what we thought.... The map or road or something was wrong and we ended up doing a massive loop to get round into the city. All up we did about 30km with over half of that on sand tracks or red dusty road.
 We teamed up with a French couple who were also biking around asia but they,
being French nutters, had their 4 year old boy in a trailer behind daddies bike! 

Finally we got into town and checked into the first reasonable guest house we found. All up we'd been on the go for 13 hours. I know, no sympathy but I thought I'd try it anyway.... Cheers x

1 comment:

  1. I am sure you enjoyed the unique experience anyway. It will no doubt make good reading for the next book?!! Enjoy yourselves and stay safe. Love to you both xx