Leisurely breakfast before we set off at 8.30. The sun is shining and it’s as hot as ever. We stopped at a craft centre where uneducated Cambodians have the opportunity of learning a craft to give them a job and future and also keep the ancient Cambodian crafts alive. The crafts were wood and stone carving, silk making, painting Silk, etc.
Further on we stopped at Rose’s home town, Pouk, 15000 population. She showed us where she went to school: she had to walk 5k there and back every day. Her family had just 2 bicycles which her parents used to get fish from the lake and then take to the market to sell. Rose has 2 jobs to help keep her family – tour leader and growing and selling vegetables.
Back on the road, every once and again you see a white cow stand motionless on the side of the road, as if made of stone, while blue/black ones are grazing up to their chests in paddyfields. The land is flat and green with rice crops and the main roads are long and straight. Every so often we slow down as we pass through a small settlement.
We stopped at a restaurant in Bantay Mean Chay for lunch. I just had a tomato and cucumber salad.
We stopped at a roadside stall selling ‘sticky rice’. This came in the form of hollow pieces of bamboo filled with rice and coconut and then steamed with a leaf in the top for flavour. Rrose showed us how you peel back the pulped and dried bamboo to reveal the sticky rice inside. It was delicious.
Stopped at a stall that sold barbecued snake, rat, grasshopper and frogs. I tried some snake – a rainbow water snake. It was nice – tasted like chicken!
We finally arrived in Battambang at around 2.30. There is a population of 7000 people, many speak Thai In 1907 it was returned by the French to Cambodia. Quiet and untouristy.
After checking into our comfortable ans spacious hotel, Gill and I decided on a swim after viewing quite a reasonable sized pool below our bedroom window.
Jac later joined us and from the pool we could see Rose in the gym. She is so fit and energetic!
At 5pm the group met up for an orientation walking tour of the town. We stopped at a monastery clad in gold where we were told what it means to be a monk. At one time it would have meant complete abstinence from every day life with their families, etc. and following a strict code of conduct within the monastery which would require a long period of training, usually a year with no media. But this has become more relaxed and they are now allowed mobile phones.
We walked on to a bustling market where Rose led me through to a stall where I could buy some whole pepper. As ever, this market sold all manner of fruit, vegetables and fish with women sitting on their haunches at each stall as if it was the most natural posture to them, and of course it was. I was most impressed as many were probably older than me!
We eventually arrived at our restaurant for dinner. Clearly one of the popular restaurants in town with an extensive milkshake menu. I chose mango and pineapple! I then ate a huge dishful of chicken and cashews with fried rice and vegetables… very nice.
We walked back to the hotel along the river. It was a pleasant evening and still very warm, though not oppressively humid. One last stop at the bakery for those young things who didn’t think they would survive tomorrow’s long journey to Bangkok. without snacks.
…. a stark reminder of how fortunate we westerners are to live in the time and place that we do!