Our bus ride to Battambang was really nice, in a coach so not squished onto a mini van and the roads were really flat for once! Once the bus pulled up we were once again bombarded with people trying to get your attention by shoving signs infront of your face, they are all tuktuk men who want to take you to certain hotels so they can get a commission. I find it hard to keep my cool when they are all in my face and shouting, I just dont look at any of them and say in my best teacher voice 'I will look in a minute, let me get my bag off first', Damo is far more patient with them than me.
We dont useually go with the drivers at the station but sometimes its easier to give in and go with them than not. You just have to try and quickly figure out which one seems the most genuine which can be a difficult task. We went with a nice man called Ola who wanted to show us to the hotels we had noted down anyway. Other than wanting the commision from the hotel they also try and sell you a tour. Ola wanted us to go with him and was actually asking for a reasonable amount for him to drive us to all the main sights, normally we would hire a bike and cycle but everything was in different directions so we ended up booking with him.
In the morning Ola wasnt there, he had sent someone else as his bike was broken, so our driver for the day was a lovely man called Soon, like see you soon, as he described it. First stop was a crocodile farm, I naively thought we were going to a similar place to the turtal re-homing centre we had seen in Kratie....no it was a farm. We got taken to what looked like a ladys house where we had to pay to get in, we could hear the crocs but couldnt see them, we then walked up some steps and there below us were 600 corcodiles, all laying on top of each other, the space they had was tiny and a pathetic amount of water to swim in. I felt really uneasy being there as i soon realised this was like battery farming croc style. Damo tried to get me to see that over here a crocodile is like a cow for us, bred for food and for thier skin. It still didnt feel right looking at these big animals that you usealy only expect to see in the wild or at worse in a zoo, but this was serious farming. They produce over 7000 baby crocodiles a year and all of them get sold for food and for skin, mainly to China. Some of the big adults get sold but only to the very rich people who can afford them, a big adult can go for $5000 which is a lot of mony out here. It was interesting to here about the crocs and how they run the farm, and in the 40 years the farm has been going there has never been an accident or a loose croc which i was suprised at. That wasnt the only farm, it was surrounded by another 4 right next to it. Its weird to think you could be walking past and have no clue that just over the walls are over 2400 crocodiles!
After the farm we went to the Bamboo train, this is a sight that is really plugged and made out to be amazing. It was ok but its just another tourist money grabber. You have to pay to ride the train and then you end up paying more along the way. You are basically sat on a bamboo raft on wheels, you have your own driver who takes you up, it goes quite fast in parts so it gets exciting, we past loads of people who we thought had broken down, but it terns out because its just one track up and down, if you are coming the other way and there are more people than you then you have to stop and take your little train off the track and wait for them to go! we were lucky and were always following other people so never had to get off. The train takes you about 20 minuets up to the old railway station where is stops for 15 minuest and you are instantly grabbed by a lady wanting you to come and sit down and look at her shop. Damo ended up buying a vest and a bracelet. They are so desperate for your money and when you think about what a dolla is worth to us compared to them you dont mind sometimes. Its the beggars we dont like, they are everywhere, they either walk around with thier babys or you get blind adults being led around by thier children guiding them with a piece of string. You see so many people working really hard all hours of the day either making things, cooking things and selling things that the beggars just make you cross. Anyway so when you eventualy got back to the train station you get stopped by a man who tells you its now time to tip your driver, so after paying your $5 each to get in you end up paying that again, money grabbing at its best.
Our driver was really good at stopping along the way to explain things we could see in the country side, he showed us all the veg they grow and how to recognise it, like chillies, peanuts, rice, cauliflower. He also explaind all about the wooden houses, some of the bamboo houses he showed us were over 100 years old! We stopped off at a fishing village, where he explaind how they trap fish by just using twigs and branches. We got to walk through the village and the people were so lovely, we brought some watermelon off a lady and when i asked if I could take a picture she started smiling and patting down her hair and straightening up her shirt. When we found our driver at the end of the road the tuktuk was coverd in children, all climbing on it. The kids are incredible out here, the adults are lovely but the children are just gorgeous, always shouting hello and waving, even as they are being driven past on a bike. The children on the tuktuk were great, wanting to talk to you, they loved looking at their photo when i took a picture. We also saw some children who were doing thier homework, we stopped and talked to them and they explained all about what they do at school. I was in my elemant. In cambodia Primary school children go to school for 4 hours a day in the morning and just learn Maths and Khmer (cambodian) and then if they want to learn english they have to pay $11 a month and do afternoon classes. In secondary school they do 7 hours a day and a half day on a saturday and they learn most of the subjects we do, they do english but also french and spanish.
Its definalty the people that make Cambodia such a special place, almost every single person smiles or says hello, and if they get a chance they will ask where your from and try and have a conversation with you, their english is really good. The younger children will shout 'hello whats your name' most of the time they arn't even looking for an answer as they probably dont really know what they have said, its just something they have just learnt.
We have sampled a few of the street foods, they have a vegetable here which I cant remember the name of but its very similar to potato, and they mash it with sugar and make a patty shape which they bbq, its delicious! we tried the deep fried banana too which was a treat. They also bbq banana, we have seen this everywhere but never tried it, my gosh we wish we had tried it sooner! everything here is either steamed or barbequed, they have a really healthy diet, the majority of what they eat is veg, fruit, seeds, meat and rice, probably why they are all so teeny weeny! We really like the peanuts, you can buy a cup full, and they are still in the shells, they boil them in salty water and then sell masses of them on the street, yum! There is also some pretty nasty looking street food that they love, like pig fat, chickens feet, and even the mango here is sour and sold with a small bag of salt and chilli, weird!
To end the day out we went to see the killing cave. This is where people were murderd and then their bodies thrown into a cave during the Khmer regime. Cambodia has a really sad history, I say history but the evil that went on didnt officially stop until 1998. The caves were difficult, and again sadly it was a money grabber, there were people lining the paths up and around asking for donations and then we had two boys who were trying to show us around, we knew what they were after and if they had been nice and charming like most of the children we had met then we might have given them some mony but they were very expectant and rather rude, they asked us to pay for their english lessons, I had to get my teacher voice out and tell them a rather stern no, otherwise they would have just followed us everwhere. Inside the cave there was a cabinate full of skulls and bones, but again another pot and someone wanting money if you take a picture. I had no intention of taking a picture anyway, let alone pay for it. It didnt sit right with me taking photos of the remains of these poor people who lost their lives in such a horrific way.
On a lighter note, since I left home I have been through two pairs of flipflops, the pair I got from home broke after a month, i tried to keep them going by pushing the toe post back through but jeeze Damo was getting really annoyed so when i finally found a pair of plain black flip flops I got some, a week later and the same thing happens, flipflop dramas to the max, I ended up having a full blown Sophie strop when my stupid flipflop broke on me for about the 50th time that day during our trip out, there may have been a few swear words and a throwing of the filip fulop down the road in a fit of rage.....much to Damo's amusement. So I think we may have found a decent pair, they are bright white but thick and strong, you see all the locals wearing them so i figured if thier good enough for them then they must be ok.
We have met up with the couple we were in Don Det and Siem Reap with, we had a rather amusing evening out when half way through speaking I had to stop to tell them there as a man standing butt naked right next to us in the street! turns out he was only after a lighter for his ciggaret, once he had it lit he starting running off, almost like he had looked down and suddenly realised he had forgotten his pants! so funny.
We are off to Phomn Phen Tomorrow morning, on the road again to see whats around the corner :)