Yes well, a rotten bus journey resulted in a 10pm arrival into Battambang but I managed to find a comfortable guesthouse quickly and organised tuktuk transport for the next day. Battambang is actually Cambodia's second largest city but to me it was just a small pleasant town. Nice restaurants!
The one thing I really came here for was to ride the bamboo train but I reckoned I could fit one or two other sights into the day. I love these rides along the country roads - so much to look at! First stop was a winery. Yes a Cambodian winery. It was in a nice location but the wine was not the best but the owners were very pleased with all their awards. I wonder how much competition they actually have?. Next I was taken to a Wat on a hill and that was good. The temple may have been the inspiration for Ankor Wat but on a far smaller scale. It was mainly in ruins but there were lovely views of the surrounding countryside and it felt very peaceful. Then it was on to see an open house. In order to get here we had to negotiate our way round a wedding marquee which had been set up in the middle of the road. I don't think many of the guests had arrived at that point but the music was well and truly in full swing! The 'Antique House' was lovely and surrounded by an orchard. I could live there! The current owner who is the Grandaughter of the original owners was there to show me around and it was full of beautiful wooden furniture and old photographs. But there is a sad story as the family had to flee to Phnom Penh in the seventies because of Pol Pot and she and her nephew were the only two who survived and returned. Amazingly the house was left in good shape although the kitchen was destroyed. Finally we went in search of the bamboo train. These are actually called Norries and are nothing more than a bamboo platform placed on two sets of wheels with a motor attached. They use them to transport themselves and their goods along the railway line. Most of them now are just used by tourists wanting a bit of fun. It was a bit rickitty especially over the dodgy looking bridges but you did see some life at the side of the track. There is only a single track so if you meet another one coming the other way one has to be dismantled and reassembled to let the other pass. I had to get off three times on the way back! After about 20 minutes we arrived at a brick-making village and there was time for a quick drink in the cafe. There was a group of about seven travellers there of several different nationatities. They must have picked each other up along the way. I chose not to get involved but I kept seeing them that evening and they were booked onthe same boat as me to Siem Reap. They were too "Hey man, squat down!" for me.
The boat left Battambang at 7 am and luckily I got a seat inside and the "Hey man, squat downs" had to sit on the roof. The boat trip was described in th LP as one of the best in the country and it really was. There was so much to see as people live and work on the boats and many of them just keep waving. They are obviously poor but they are so cheery. The journey took about six hours and we had one stop (where the toilets were just planks of wood overhanging the river. The doors had locks though!). Before we reached Siem Reap we passed a floating village. Well, I think it was more than a village - it was bigger than Battambang for sure! We had to stop to make some deliveries and more passengers were climbing aboard from small rowing boats. So photogenic.
On arriving at the port the tuktuk drivers were so eager for customers that some of them were even climbing aboard the boat! Cheek. I waited until I had disembarked and had retrieved my pack before choosing my one but I think he was a dud. As we were driving along the road he suddenly stopped by his house where his two year old was having a massive tantrum. So he picked the boy up and plonked him on the seat next to me and continued with the journey!. The child continued to howl so the driver (who went by the name of Red) stopped once more and placed the child on his lap then drove on. Red told me with great glee that he'd only been doing this job for a month and he loved the English because his English friend Rene had bought him his tuktuk. Oh yeah, right. He then took me to an expensive hotel before heading to the cheaper guesthouses I had requested. This was New Year week and many places were full but I found a reasonable room. No sooner had I checked in, the screaming two year old was put on my toilet for a wee! Then Red was begging me to let me take him to the temples as he needed the money as his wife was expecting another baby. I ask you, is this any way to do business? He should have been telling me how he was the right man for the job due to his expert knowledge of the temples of Ankor! I booked a coach trip.