After my initial assertions about angkor Wat, I visited again the following day early morning. Far fewer tourists allowed me to actually experience the place without being whacked in the arm by giant cameras. It was altogether a better and more peaceful experience and it's a stunning temple. I also visited many other smaller temples, hidden in the jungle, most of them with only a handful of visitors. My favourite was a palace built in homage to many different gods, vishnu, shiva, Buddha. The carvings are amazing and it's unbelievable that they have weathered many hundreds of years.
I had lunch with my tuk tuk driver and his mate. They said I was very lucky to travel and I agreed. But they also said that they are lucky to have tourists too, to give cambodians jobs and opportunity. I thought this was a great attitude and so have been spending my dollars with abandon.
The next day I was headed to Battambang by boat. As it's the dry season, the river is very low so we drove for about an hour then jumped on a long tail boat, all diesel fumes and hard wooden seats. The journey passes through countless villages all built on the water with bamboo fish farms and boats instead of scooters. These are truly river people. Toddlers swim unsupervised, shops are on boats and vegetables grow on little pontoons. The kids all wave even though they must see at least three tourists boats a day.
Unfortunately, as it's dry season, the journey was actually ten hours instead of the billed six and the driver had to get in the river frequently to set the boat free from the shallow sand. As we arrived in Battambang, so many kids were playing in the river, turning the muddy bank into a slide and shouting hello and waving. It was a lovely experience.
It's Chinese new year so Battambang has been fairly sedate as most people visit their hometowns. The ones who stayed burn fake money in fires in front of their houses for luck and let off fireworks that sound like machine guns.
Yesterday I took a ride on a bamboo train. Train in the loosest sense of the word as the carriage Is just wood and bamboo with a motor on the back. That's it. And you whip through the countryside pretty fast on tracks that are warped by the sun. Bamboo trains were traditionally used to transport produce to market. Choo choo!
My driver guide for the day was a cocky little scooter driver, all slicked back hair and mirrored glasses but excellent english and full of stories. It was super fun riding around the countryside on the back of a scooter, helmetless and wind whipped.
We stopped off at mountain riddled with caves. Some were khmer killing caves. My driver left me to explore and I met a lovely Swiss couple. We made our way down the mountain to a bat cave. Not THE bat cave, but a bat cave. You could hear them flying around going nuts. Bat s*** crazy. Then, at sunset they started flying out of the cave. A steady and relentless stream for 40 minutes. There must have been millions of them. It was an incredible sight.
I found my driver who was quite drunk. Great. I made him give me his helmet and we journeyed back to town at a very slow pace with him telling me how much he wants to marry an English woman. Haha! Good one.
Leaving cambodia today, to Bangkok and flying to Yangon tomorrow. There are tensions in burma at the moment but they are in areas far from the tourist trail that I'm following so please don't worry.