Exploring Battambang

Battambang is the second biggest city in Cambodia and yet has a small town feel – it’s quiet, everything shuts early and it’s very sleepy. It’s great place to explore the surrounding countryside and relax for a few days.

On arrival I heading straight to the Bamboo train – one of the main tourist attractions in Battambang – and enjoyed a ride on the old train tracks. It’s a very strange but unique experience – to pass other trains they simply stop and dismantle the small vehicle, let the other pass, and place it back on the tracks. It takes you to a small village which is swarming with young children trying to sell bracelets, and then they immediately get angry if you buy one off someone else… This is such a touristy thing to do in the area – as locals no longer really travel like this – but it’s definitely a fun thing to do!

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On my second day I hired a bicycle (for $1!) and cycled 25km through countryside to a small temple, with a couple of people I met in my hostel. It was incredible cycling along rustic lanes and past small homesteads filled with smiling and waving children – poverty is clearly rife here, but the people still seem incredibly happy and excited to see any Westerners in the area. We stopped at a buddhist temple and had long chats with some of the monks there – they’re very eager to practice their English!

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We spent some time playing with two incredibly cute little girls outside their small home. The older one seemed intent on lifting her little sister up all the time, and they clearly enjoyed play fighting with each other. I managed to take some awesome photos of them both:

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We cycled for hours in the blistering heat, and finally arrived at the temple a little too late… We were sweaty, hungry and very dusty, and the thought of cycling back 25km (probably in the dark) was a thought we dreaded. Thankfully, whilst trudging back along the main road, we managed to hitch hike twice which took us right back into Battambang. For one ride we shared the back of a tractor like contraption with a whole Cambodian family, plus our bikes, and they thoroughly enjoyed having us onboard! The locals seemed to find the site of westerners perched on the back of vans pretty amusing and we enjoyed many waves and smiles as we sped past. These were definitely great experiences that not many backpackers can boast enjoying!

Finally, here’s my photo of the day. We’d just got off our first hitch hike – and were dreading the continued bicycle ride back to Battambang. This woman had just popped out of her house to check on her washing and I asked her for a photo. She kindly obliged and held up her hands in a prayer position in front of her face. I tried to show her the photo but she pointed at her eyes – presumably almost blind – so instead I gave her my hand and she patted it, and kissed it. The emotions I felt behind this small gesture are indescribable. A simple image can display so much, the imagination runs wild with thoughts of what she may have experienced in her long life – a photo paints a picture that words can never do.

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