A Travellerspoint blog

Here be dragons

sunny 35 °C
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No update yesterday thanks to the internet working properly, which was probably due to all the rain yesterday. Thanks to the rain I didn't really get to do/see all things I had planned to over here in Battambang, but that gives a good excuse to visit the city again. I did manage to get out to try the bamboo train and to go and see Phnom Sampeu in the middle of the day when it didn't rain for a while. Phnom Sampeu is in general known as the killing caves and was used during the Khmer Rogue for interrogations and executions, more on the Khmer Rogue when I get to Phnom Penh.

The Bamboo train was a nice experience, basically a bamboo raft with wheels under it with a motor in the back. Didn't get any oncoming traffic though but if we would have the procedure is that one raft is just dismantled of the track and put together behind the oncoming vehicle. Met a stubborn cow during the trip though. The aim of the trip is a brick factory which maybe wasn't that impressive but the ovens were quite huge.

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It started raining on our way to Phnom Sampeu but the views on the hill after climbing 500 steps was very impressive.

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Even though things didn't really go as planned here in Battambang it enjoyed my stay here, much thanks to the hostel Here Be Dragons. A hostel that opened last autumn but has already established themselves as the backpacker place in Battambang. It is quite small but this gives the place a homey feeling and they are also equipped with their own hostel dog, Barney or BarneyDog or No Barney! depending on which mood he is in.

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You'll probably get another update later today after I've arrive to Phnom Penh.

Posted by balloonimal 18:12 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Biking Battambang

semi-overcast 31 °C
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Today I got up relatively early in the morning to go to Battambang. It was quite a pleasant trip and didn't take too long, only lasted about 4 hours which isn't too bad even though it was supposed to take 3 hours. I was the only westerner on the bus but the locals on the bus were very friendly. Another observation from the trip was that if you are supposed to flash your lights during nights when you pass someone you are supposed to honk when you pass someone during daytime.

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Battambang at the moment is quite sleepy thanks to the new year. It didn't take long though before I really started to like the city, basically no tourists at all and even though this is Cambodia's second largest city with a population of 120 000 you can't really notice it.

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So the plan was today to hire a bike and go and see an abandoned Pepsi bottling factory and a crocodile farm. However, after I had biked for a while and started to suspect that I had gone too far and was about to turn around, I bumped into a couple of Khmer guys celebrating the new year. The policy is to throw water/powder on everyone and they kindly invited me into the celebrations so I ended up staying there for the rest of the day. I must say that the Cambodian hospitality is very much appreciated, considering that they offered me well over ten beers. One of the most surreal but also best experiences in my life so far. It's actually quite fun to smear white powder and pour buckets of water on unknown people. This is actually one of the top reasons why I like to travel alone as well since these kind of random moments are more likely to happen.

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Since I didn't get to the bottling factory or crocodile farm today, and I have quite a lot of other things I want to see around here, I'm gonna hire a tuktuk tomorrow to guide me around the surroundings, since most of the attractions are found outside of the city.

Posted by balloonimal 20:31 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

Siem Reap

rain 28 °C
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Since the weather wasn't showing itself from its best side today, and I've felt tired in general most certainly thanks to all the biking, I decided to just spend the day chilling out at the hostel I'm staying at. Besides, one of my room mates is a Mexican girl who got tired of the life as a make-up artist and decided to go traveling/volunteering who I spent most of yesterday evening and today talking with, so the day was almost as good as going to the temples. I still feel that I accomplished what I wanted with the temples so I don't mind.

Let's reflect about the phenomenon that is Siem Reap. A fine example of the power that tourism can have on a city. Without the temples there wouldn't be anything appealing with this city, which is quite small at the end of the day. The development has been quite drastic throughout the last ten years, and especially during the last couple of years it has been even faster. Heard that all the neon found around the city is quite new as well since they put it up two years ago. Quite interesting to see what the impact it has had on the community here, there are a lot of good things that go along with it but then again there's the dark side of tourism that is quite apparent when you head out through the night.

Some city views, the picture with the unpaved road is only 500m from the city center and that's pretty much how the rest of the city looks apart from the core city center aimed at tourists.

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The hostel of my choice this time was The Siem Reap Hostel, quite a top notch hostel with indoor swimming pool and a bar. All this for 6 dollar per night. Tomorrow though I'm heading out for Battambang early in the morning, which means I'll have an early night.

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Posted by balloonimal 20:19 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

Early morning glory

sunny 35 °C
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Getting up at 4.30 in the morning and biking 7 km to just see the sun rise might seem a bit over the top for some people. However, this is a very special sunrise you have to experience once in your lifetime, but it was also a sunrise I've wanted to see for seven years or something. Biking there this morning wasn't too bad since it was quite cool, and most of the way had some sort of traffic lights. I managed to arrive first at the pond in front of Angkor Wat, which is the best place to experience the sunrise, which I was a bit surprised about. Then again, it was pitch dark and you wouldn't have seen anything without a flashlight. It was also a good decision to get there that early since 30-40 minutes later the place was packed with tourists but fortunately thanks to me getting there that early meant I had the front seat. Here are two pictures, one before and after. The before picture is actually taken a little bit after I arrived since just when I got there you really couldn't see anything. After the sunrise I inspected the temple more closely and noticed an air balloon cruising in the sky.

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After Angkor Wat I took my bike and went to Ta Prohm, which turned out to be my favorite temple so far. It was really impressive to see the power that nature has and how it always finds a way to get its way. The trees were growing here and there all over the temple and since they are taking their time with the restorations of this temple, it felt more untouched and special to see it with own eyes. There were also several "mind your head" signs found at this temple, something which can't be found at other temples. Don't know if the people building this temple just were shorter than others.

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Later on in the afternoon after a nap I went out to have a look at what Siem Reap has to offer during daytime. Not much it turned out, but I managed to find an Irish bar who had the Formula 1 Grand Prix on so that was a nice way to spend the afternoon. Way to go Kimi.

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Today is the Khmer/Cambodian New Year so tonight I'll head out and see how that is celebrated. Apparently it is the year of the snake.

Posted by balloonimal 17:41 Archived in Cambodia Comments (3)

Biking the temples

overcast 31 °C
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For the next couple of days there will be a lot of temple pictures. Today I rented a bike for 1 dollar and biked all the way to the Angkor temples. The ride to the temples is only about 5 km but then at the actual "temple area" the distance between each temple is 2-3 km so a very vague guess is that I have biked somewhere between 20-30 km today. This procedure will be repeated tomorrow and Monday as well, however I looked at the more "boring" temples today to save the best for the two other days so I won't be spending the whole day at the temples tomorrow and Monday. Biking was a wise choice, even though tuk-tuks would have been 15 dollars for a whole day at the temples, but you really got a sense of how gigantic the area actually is. You also got a sense that you actually accomplish something. The traffic wasn't too bad to navigate through either since Siem Reap isn't that big/busy. Enjoy a small pick of the temple pictures I took today.

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The plan for tomorrow is to get up early enough to experience the sunrise over Angkor Wat and later on have a look at the "Tomb Raider" temple and later on in the afternoon see how the Khmer/Cambodian New Year is celebrated in the center of Siem Reap.

Posted by balloonimal 18:31 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

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