Cambodia08 Jan 2007 04:09 am

Have i cried on this journey? Yes.    Have i cried for non-selfish reasons… i have now.  

Phnom Penh. The empty city.   Brief history for you –  You have heard of Pol Pot. If you have seen the film “Killing Fields” you would have an idea. 
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Cambodia04 Jan 2007 01:12 pm

Battambang is a small town outpost between Siem Reap in the north of Cambodia and phnom Phenn in the south.

I opted to travel by boat, along the TonneLeSapp river, which runs off of south East Asia’s largest freshwater lake. The journey would take 5 hours in wet season and the river would be 6 meters deep.

It took 10 hours, along a 2 meter deep river, sometimes shallower where we get stuck in the mud and most times, enough room for one boat only.

The journey, takes you through true rural Cambodia, past floating markets and villages where pigs and chickens grow on floating platforms outside the floating house.

You boat past hundreds of fishermen guarding their nets, looking for the smallest fish to enter, which they will take back and grow in their fish garden or feed to the crocodiles they are growing for the leather trade.

You DO get tired, like many of these journeys, but are rewarded by that glimpse back in time to pre-elecrticity, pre-industrial era where people live off the land with none of the modern day comforts.

The town of Battambang itself is a beautiful example of french colonial architechture, nestled along the river – but oh so dusty.

You can take a moped out on some tours, but by now – like me, you are templed out. (See video below where Jehovah’s Witnesses appeared at one remote temple)

Out of everything there, the best and most interesting point for me was a “Bamboo Train”.

There ARE the killing caves, where the Khmer Rouge held monks, teachers, people who spoke another language etc in a temple and then bludgeoned them to death or impaled them on bamboo stakes before stacking them in a cave. BUT, to truly understand why this to me was not interesting – you need to read my Phnom Phenn update.

Bamboo Train: There is one railway, that runs across Cambodia. Because the main roads are now tarmac arteries between the cities and bus prices so low – there is only one passenger train. It runs on a Saturday and a Sunday. The rest of the time, there is a large stretch of railway unused by trains – that cuts through rural cambodia. The locals, have devised an ingeniuous travel device. Made of two small sets of train wheels on which a flat bamboo platform sits – locals origionaly used to push themselves and maket produce through the countryside on the railtrack by using bamboo poles. Now, they are powered by small motorbike-like engines. IF you happen to come across a bamboo train coming the opposite direction (there is only one track), the rule is, that the heavier platform stays put – and the lighter platform must be dismantled and moved PAST the train and reassembled. I used the train to cut some time between roads – and it is fascinating. See the video for action footage.

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Title: Cambodia-By-Boat
Description: Great rural boat journey

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Title: Bamboo-Train
Description: How locals travelin Cambodia

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Title: Jehovah's-Witnesses,
Description: Looked like Mormons to me…

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Title: Killing-Caves
Description: Death in caves- battambong

Cambodia02 Jan 2007 02:48 am

When rain it nightime, i come and collect many – they very good taste… was Cheer, my Cambodian moped driver/guide’s comment.

It was related to the fact that we were flying along a track lined by rice paddies at 2am, the green just showing through the edge of the dusty red beam of light from our headlamp..

A frog, quite happily crossing the track had the unlucky shock of being caught mid-hop by my shin, traveling at 60km on the back of a moped and richoched up to my shoulder where he dazedly saw my very confused face staring back at him. My driver thought it was the most common thing in the world.

We were driving back to Siem Reap which, translated, means Dead Thai’s – due to a war a few hundred years ago (… can’t see a town called Dead French lasting long in Britain).

Siem Reap had the lucky hapstance to be right next door to the world’s best temples collectively known as Angor Watt and has thousands of tourists daily spending their dollars in the area.

We had just left a festival in a village in rural Cambodia outside of town, where many uneducated cambodians take their bicycle 20km to work and back everyday to earn: Women 75cents USD and Men 1-3 dollars; in the building trade. If you want to know why there are 2 million less educated people in Cambodia – google “Pol Pott” or check my Phnom Phenn / Battambang posts when published.

I cannot stress enough the benefit of getting out of cities when doing these journeys. You will see pictures and videos here of many temples. Cambodia, namely Siem Reap is a destination specifically for these massive old temples.

But, with tourism comes tourists. You will note some of my pictures focus on them – rather than the temples – as it just seemed so strange.

I decided to head out 70km on a bike with Cheer, to see other sites – and was rewarded with ancient temples overgrown with jungle – to myself.

I was rewarded with sitting on a roadside eating catfish whilst drinking bootleg ‘palm-wine’ made from palm trees with locals – whilst one horse, our moped and a cart hooked up to bullocks were parked next to us waiting to take us home.

Ordinarily, if i had a line of young men waiting to dance with me on a dancefloor, full of just men – i would not mention it… But the festival is worth painting for you. It was running in a vast dry paddi acerage to celebrate the completion of a new Pagoda in the village.

Picture a fun-fair in the 1930’s and you are close to the truth. Hoops over beer bottles, darts in ballons, a pantomime and a 15 foot high ferris wheel.

I was the only non-cambodian out of about 5 thousand and to my surprise a minor celebrity. These people rarely go into town, so never see a foreigner.

You will notice a distinct lack of photographs and video from this event, as i held the only camera there. To buy my camera, these people would work on average 800 days and not spend a penny on food etc.. The one time i used it, on a dancefloor – the flash caused a sensation of cheers and murmours that i put it safely out of view after realising my faux par.

Truly, i have much to write about but cannot explain in short enough prose to hold your attention here. I am lucky enough to have been taken into a shack house of my drivers family and lucky enough to be taken to party with the people who want to hold your hand dancing in a field just out of sheer genuine happiness; with no stigma attached and no language needed.

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Title: Cambodian-Style
Description: Country parties and eating chicken foetus

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Title: Tourist-Overload
Description: Why i like off the beaten track

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Title: Indina-Jones
Description: Exploring an empty jungle temple