Dead Ducks & Dog Soup: Battambang, Cambodia

We only have about a a day and a half to spend in Battambang so we set right off to do some sightseeing. I have heard of this wonderful tourist trap in Battambang Cambodia called the Bamboo Train.  Apparently a railway had been built in Cambodia some years ago, but since a civil war had become so dilapidated that train service was discontinued in 2009.

The Cambodian people being resourceful, and needing a form of transportation, build these rail car platforms from bamboo. The platform gets set upon a set of train wheels, and a motor is attached with a belt that propels the contraption down the rails.  To propel forward the driver pushes the motor forward to tighten the belt, which then turns the wheels…..and away you go! There are no brakes, of course, so when the driver wants to slow down he loosens the belt by allowing the motor to slide back and the platform slows down.

When we arrive at the station we ask for a “big family” discount, and they let us all board for $25 instead of $30. Got to wheel and deal, you know! I am pleased at this huge savings, which is really quite meaningless in the whole scheme of things.

Of course there is no muffler or emission control devices on this train, so when the motor starts it is deafening and stinks to high heaven! And the track is very uneven, so the ride is bumpy at the least. And the seats aren’t horribly comfortable….

The driver pulls a rope to start the motor, much like a lawnmower, I suppose….although it starts a lot easier than any lawn mower I have ever tried to start.
  

Here you can see the pulley down on the axle.
  

  

Hey, I have a question…..why did the chicken cross the railroad? If you have the answer let me know!

We are getting propelled at an increasing rate down the rickety track. The wind in our hair feels good on this warm day as we reach speeds of nearly 30 mph….clickety clack…..clickety clack….clic..clic..clic..clickity clack….clickety clackety…clackety click…..

Our driver doesn’t crack a grin. He would if he knew that we plan to give him a $5 tip….the money we saved by negotiating our tickets.   
  

Looks like an unsafe bridge ahead!  
    
Oh oh! This is a single track, but another bamboo rail car is headed our way!

We all jump off and the drivers remove the platform…. 

Then they move the wheels off the track……and the other bamboo rail car passes by. After they pass we reassemble our rail car and we are on our way in no time. The Cambodians don’t use this portion of the track so much because it is a section used by tourists. However, they do actively use the tracks just to the south of where we take our ride. They pile these bamboo cars overladen with huge loads. In the case that you meet another train, the person with the smaller load has to empty their cargo and move off the track.

We enjoy the tranquil Cambodian countryside as we clickety clack down the track. Cambodian cows all seem to be white. I wonder if they say “moo”?  
    
 

The tourist bamboo train brings you about 30 minutes down the track to a little village where children and other shopkeepers try to get you to buy their wares…..um…let me rephrase that….they try to force us to buy stuff that we don’t need…..the children are particularly aggressive in their sales tactics. I find myself thinking that if my kids could become such persistent little marketers they might do really well in life. Finally Aundrea reverses the tactic and tries to sell them her things…..like sunglasses and shoes….

    

Now you see what I mean by a rickety track?

Ouch, I am getting sore after sitting on the local slowboat all the way from Siem Reap earlier today, and now this crazy bamboo train…..

At the end I put David to work. Up, down, up, down, up, down…..oh dear, you can see his underwear brand in this photo….  

After our bamboo train ride we go have dinner in town. We pick a place called Hoc Cafe. The food is cheap and tasty.

And an evening swim in the hotel pool is just the ticket! 

Our cheap hotel unfortunately does not include breakfast, so the next morning we find a place to eat. We find a very cute little cafe called Choco L’Art that is owned by a French woman. The owners husband is an artist and his magnificent work covers the walls. In order to come in you must take your shoes off first. We all end up eating crepes for breakfast. It is a little pricier than we care to pay, but it makes a good enough start to our day.   

We pass the dreadfully smelly and fly infested market again….now I see some dead ducks….a la flies, of course! Who eats these things, anyway?

…..and black eggs of some strange sort that I can’t figure out. The people don’t speak enough English to explain them to me, and of course I don’t speak Cambodian.   

Waste not, want not…..even the claws are useful for something….

And the local meat market…..I don’t know what’s in that bowl under the table.  

The agenda this morning involves going to the Killing Caves and a rice paper making operation. We had made plans with our tuk tuk driver yesterday, and sure enough he is at the hotel just in time to pick us up.  We don’t get far though….Oh, oh…. The tuk tuk broke down!

While I am waiting for the tuk tuk to be fixed I amuse myself by watching vehicles pass by.  
  
  

Another tuk tuk rescues us and we head off again. We drive up this steep steep hillside on the back of motorbikes where we find some temples. We see some pretty paintings at the temple at the Killing Caves at Phnom Sampeau.
  

These caves were used in the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge to dump human bodies.

 
  

Beautiful views of rural Cambodia from the hilltop.  

Ish…. Someone is selling fried crickets…..

Sick! Did he really put one in his mouth?  

No! He ate it!!!  I will never kiss him again!

  

Baby monkey……

Temple at Phnom Sampeau.  


 

And we ride down the steep hill again. Thankfully the brakes worked….it was a steep road.


We all board the tuk tuk again. We have to ride 15 km back to town and from there another 12 in the other direction to a rice paper operation where we are headed. Ends up being a lot of tuk tuk exhaust in our faces on such a long ride. The exhaust is overwhelming…..everyone falls asleep, and I am worried that we are getting slowly poisoned.

The drive is so long that we have to fill up on gas.  There are gas stations like this everywhere.

  

  

Finally we get to our destination. This is a rice paper making operation? They make these by hand.

Coffee time at Kinyei Espresso Shop. Great coffee…..nice atmosphere…..soon it’s time to get on the bus and leave to Phnom Pehn. Guess what?  

We have to walk past that meat market again……    

We make a bakery stop before we go to the bus. We have a five hour ride ahead of us, which will bring us to Phnom Pehn about midnight. Bjorn looks upset about something.

And we are hungry for dinner. Remember that duck a la flies? 

There you have it! We ate it…..  

We decided to take a VIP bus from Battambang to Phnom Pehn thinking it would be the safest ride. See the driver? When we take off he drives like a maniac!

Almost immediately he hits a dog with the minibus. We all are aghast, and all he has to say is, “Dog soup!” We are so disgusted. Our stomachs are queasy thinking about this poor little dog we hit. The poor dog limped away….as we sped off into the darkening evening light. Who knows if we have eaten dog on this trip?  I hope not…..

We have two near misses on the ride….head on collisions averted by milliseconds to spare…..  

Beautiful sunset on a rice farm in rural Cambodia.


While we are driving into Phnom Pehn I get online to find us a place to stay. A local man on the minibus gives us some pointers. He tells us that it’s best to stay in a hotel that has security guards…..but those are expensive…..so I find this place called Nawin Guesthouse.  It is right near the riverfront by the palace….great reviews….great location……great deal. I am bold. I book just one night, and we will decide when we see it whether or not we will stay a second night. The man on the bus gives us his phone number and tells us if we have any troubles that we should call him….we thank him profusely….I don’t think I will need his number, but it is very kind of him to offer his help.

When the minibus finally stops in Phnom Pehn the driver starts hollering at us to get out the bus. It is chaotic as we grab our bags. There are people and vehicles everywhere and tuk tuk drivers haggling us. We settle with two tuk tuk drivers and we are whisked off into the busy traffic.

When we arrive at Nawin Guesthouse they tell us our two rooms are on different floors, but David insists we want the same floor for both rooms. It is very late by the time we get up to our rooms…..they don’t look too bad…..clean enough…..comfortable enough…..and we soon are all fast asleep….all my babies in one room across the hall, and David and I together in our room.
  

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