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Cambodia: Battambang

Battambang, Cambodia

After a very relaxing and fashionable Christmas in Hanoi (we were on the frow at a fashion show on the 25th too), I was set to fly back to Siem Reap on Boxing Day evening before getting the bus to Battambang on 27th morning.

Chula at Vietnam Fashion Week

Chula at Vietnam Fashion Week

However when I got to the airport I discovered my flight had been cancelled. Vietnam Airlines were pretty good at sorting it out though and we (me, 2 Brits and 3 Russians) were put on a flight to Ho Chi Minh, stayed there one night – or more like 5 hours – then back to the airport for the early flight to Siem Reap. This was ok except my flight got in at 9.20am and the bus to Battambang was leaving at 10.30am. This left me 40 minutes to get a visa, find my bag, haggle for a tuk tuk and find the bus to be picked up at 10am. Against all odds I made it with 5 minutes to spare!

Battambang is the second city of Cambodia and is a five hour drive west of Siem Reap. The main attraction is the Bamboo train, but I really wanted to come for Cambodia’s only vineyard – a 4 hectare stretch about 10km south of the city.

I had a full day of sightseeing on Saturday with Nicky, an English speaking guide/tuk tuk driver. We kicked off at the Bamboo train or the rollercoaster as Nicky called it, a rickety 3 metre square frame with bamboo slats on top of 4 wheels.

Bamboo train tracks in Battambang

Bamboo train tracks in Battambang

Lonely Planet describes it as ‘one of the world’s all-time classic rail journeys’. Not sure I agree with that but it was certainly unique. We hurtled along the wobbly tracks until meeting people coming the other way. As there is only one track, someone has to get off their ‘carriage’, the whole thing is taken apart, we pass and the carriage is put back together. I thought that the carriage with the least people had to get down but my driver must have been special as everyone else was forced to get out of our way!

Bamboo train in Battambang

Bamboo train in Battambang

After going for about 20 minutes you stop at the other end for a short break then return.

From there we headed south through the countryside to the Prasat Phnom Banon Winery where they produce a Cabernet Sauvignon, a brandy and some fruit juices. The red wine was ok, quite sweet but drinkable – same with the juices but the brandy was way too strong. A quick sniff nearly knocked me sideways!

Crops on the riverbank in the Battambang countryside

Crops on the riverbank in the Battambang countryside

We drove further into the countryside heading for Phnom Banan, a Angkor Wat-style temple on top of a steep hill. After drinking red wine the 358 stone steps were killer but once at the top there were lovely views across the province and an interesting walk around.

Walkway up the steps to Phnom Banan

Half way up the steps to Phnom Banan

Phnom Banan

Phnom Banan

Coming down the steps was also difficult but I was rewarded with lunch at the end. We then continued to Phnom Sampeau where there are the horredous ‘killing caves’, two caves that were used to throw people into during the Khmer Rouge era and a temple that was used as a prison. It is horrible in the caves, with skulls and bones collected into cages.

We walked on uphill to the monastry at the summit of Phnom Sampeau, with Nicky scaring away any macaques that came near my Diet Coke. The views up there were definitely worth the sweat.

The temple that used to be a prison during the Khmer Rouge

The temple that used to be a prison during the Khmer Rouge

Views from the top of Phnom Sampeau

Views from the top of Phnom Sampeau

Monastery at the top of Phnom Sampeau

Monastery at the top of Phnom Sampeau

We made our way down and walked up the road to wait by the entrance of another cave.

At 5.30pm millions of bats flew out and into the dusk to catch insects and make their way to the river.

Bats flying out of the cave at dusk in Battambang

Bats flying out of the cave at dusk in Battambang

Bats flying out of the cave at dusk in Battambang

Bats flying out of the cave at dusk in Battambang

Phnom Sampeau at dusk

Phnom Sampeau at dusk

It was a spectacular sight – a bit smelly though.

On Sunday I walked around the city and then came back on the afternoon bus to Phnom Penh.

The Governor's Residence in Battambang

The Governor’s Residence in Battambang

Questionable scaffolding in downtown Battambang

Questionable scaffolding in downtown Battambang

A lovely little weekend break!

1 Comment on Cambodia: Battambang

  1. Happy New Year Alison! Hope you had a good one. It all looks fabulous. Hope you are well. Sunita xx

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