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kc goes to battambang

March 3, 2010

I’m not entirely sure how we decided upon Battambang as our second stop.  It seemed the most do-able given that Phnom Penh and Siem Reap were both on the agenda and we wanted to try to cram in one last stop.  The stop promised a cooking class that I couldn’t wait for and a ride on the one-of-a-kind bamboo train.

From Phnom Penh it was a 5.5 hour bus ride of blaring Cambodian music videos and a leaky A.C..  The stops were less than comfortable, but before you knew it, we arrived to Battambang.  A tiny town compared to Phnom Penh, but a nice change of pace.

We arrived to this amazing colonial home-turned-hotel.  Stunning.  And in an even better turn of luck?  The hotel was also the best restaurant in town.  Double score.

Lunch at La Villa

What a nice way to relax after that bus ride.  Life was good…that is until I indulged in a mojito.  It tasted slightly odd, but I chalked it up to something unimportant and carried on my way.  Later that night I would regret that decision.  Let’s press the fast-forward button to just get to the bit where I tell you that the cooking class I couldn’t wait for was cut short by me almost passing out on the table.  Sigh.  I guess it’s just a reason to return.

I did make the trip to the market to do the shopping for our class though and what an experience.  You don’t know fresh fish until you see a woman just pick one up out of a bucket, clobber it with a mallet then fillet and scale it there for you.   Produce I’ve never seen in my life and more smells that I imagined possible.  I can’t say it’s the best experience for you germaphobes out there, but it was an amazing experience.

After leaving the cooking class and a 4-hour nap later, I felt well enough to stand up and 1 hour after that, felt I could take on the bamboo train.  Probably not the best idea I had, but I was determined.  How can you pass up a train that looks like this?

The train has only one track, which means that you rely on the eyes of your 13-year old driver to spot oncoming trains.  We had one minor “crash” but that was mostly due to underestimating how quickly we were going and how soon we had to brake.  It was a quick bump and then we’re done.  But what do you do? Well, the rule of the road is that the train with the most amount of cargo wins.  Which means, if you’re the lighter load, you get off the train, disassemble, move off the track, wait for the other guys to pass.  We thankfully didn’t run into too much traffic, but we definitely had to get off the road for these guys.

Battambang

Hotels:

La Villa: Spectacular.  I can’t recommend it enough.  You feel like you’re stepping back in time, but without giving up your creature comforts.  Beautiful grounds, lovely swimming pool and wonderful cooks.   I can’t really recommend the mojitos though.

Activities:

Cooking class at the Smoking Pot: A fun way to spend your morning and the class ends in a 4-course feast.  A bargain at just $8/class.  Also serves as a restaurant.

Bamboo train: A 20-minute tuk-tuk ride from the downtown area.  Those things go faster than you’d think.  One of the major draws of the city and rightly so.  Good fun.

Restaurants:

Wish I could recommend anything other than our hotel (which was really quite nice), but we ended up taking it pretty easy here. Not such a bad thing since pickings were a little slim.

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