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Not a jellied eel in sight

Battambang, Cambodia

all seasons in one day 36 °C
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I am so glad that I decided to spend longer exploring this amazing country, rather than rush through ticking some more sightseeing boxes. Vietnam will have to be next time. I felt that my time in the city of Battambang gave me a real flavour of genuine Cambodian lifestyle. I will never forget the warmth and humour of the people there. The relatively recent horrors that the people of Cambodia have had to endure is just too painful for words, but there is a feeling here of optimism, of a bright peaceful future.
battambang street scene

battambang street scene

French colonial buildings

French colonial buildings


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I had booked a hotel room ahead of my arrival so was met at the boat jetty by a driver. ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Engerland’ ‘Ahhhhhhhh be careful going up those apples and pears’. This guy was hilarious, well he thought he was and that made me laugh. He was obsessed with cockney rhyming slang, and was over the moon when I taught him a few new phrases including my favourite English exclamation ‘Gordon Bennett’. Try explaining that one to a Cambodian tuktuk driver!!! My first full day in the city I wandered the markets and streets. It was a beautiful sunny day, and a pure joy checking out the brightly painted French colonial buildings, still giggling to myself over the pyjama thing. Felt great to be back off the beaten track a bit, locals approaching me just to ask where i was from or to take my picture!

I found a pretty spot near a buddist temple to sit and write some things down in my journal but was soon joined by a group of monks wanting to practise their English! Another country, another monastery, another English lesson! This was becoming a habit, but a great way to meet the locals and I learnt a lot from these guys. The monastery at Wat Tahm Rai Saw doubles as a language school. There were several lessons going on at the same time around a little courtyard and I was invited in to give a speech. I ended up taking the whole lesson actually telling them about my travels, life in England, my job!!! I then helped out with another class to translate a local newspaper into English. Great experience and the kids here seemed really willing to learn as I was asked a lot of questions! Walking back to my room, i stumbled on what i thought was a carnival. People dressed in costumes, tuktuks decorated elaborately, people dancing and playing music. I then realised, when a float containing a coffin and monks went past, that this was actually a funeral procession!
Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Language school

Language school

Language school

Language school

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Funeral procession

Funeral procession


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Just after this it started to chuck down with rain, actually more than that, it pissed down like i have never seen before in my life. A complete deluge, the streets very quickly becoming rather flooded. I took shelter underneath a porch, i assumed was the front of a shop that was closed, and waited for the rain to stop. Soon realised this was actually outside someones house! The owner returned, a middle-aged lady in pyjamas, gave me a huge smile and ushered me into her house, closing the big doors and shutters behind us. She invited me to sit down and made me a cup of tea, she didn’t speak a word of English! Then, get this, she changed out of her pyjamas INTO A DRESS!!!! Hehehehehe OMG, I am so glad I was on my own as I was having real trouble suppressing the giggles. But, what a sweet lady. This kind of hospitality really sums up what the people here are like. Her house was basically two rooms, one with the bed and living area, the other a kitchen. It was a very cosy little place. I was there for about 2 hours til the rain stopped, trying to work out what was going on in the soap opera she had on the TV!
large_IMG_6796b.jpgWat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

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The adventure continued the next day too. Jeff and Sharon, who I had met in Luang Prabang, had recommended a cooking class in Battambang at a restaurant unfortunately called ‘smoking pot’. No funny business here though, we first went to the local market to get ingredients, very very fresh ingredients. The day market in this city is surely the best I had experienced in Asia. Absolutely fascinating place. There were stalls and stalls of the most amazing, colourful, fresh produce. Freshly ‘prepared’ chickens and pigs, and bits of them, were everywhere. Buckets and tubs full of things still alive, squirming around, catfish, eels, fish, turtles. You point at what you want and it is freshly killed/filleted/scaled in front of you. Some of the little wriggly bastards were making a dash for it, jumping out the buckets and disappearing through the market. I could have stayed here watching all day, but we had lunch to cook, all THREE COURSES of it! We picked up some chicken, fish, coconut and a whole load of fresh herbs and spices, including the biggest bundle of lemongrass i have ever seen (for less than a dollar!) My fellow chefs were mostly ex-pats from Canada or US who had moved to Cambodia on various projects to improve the infrastructure there in the orphanages. Many had done the cooking course before and were bringing friends along. I understand why, as it was a fantastic experience. The restaurant kitchen was open onto the street and we prepared our ingredients outside while people dined nearby! I learnt a lot about how to blend the different flavours to make a soup, fish loc lac and a khmer chicken curry. Of course, we used the famous Kampot peppercorn that is found locally. Actually, i bought some at the market and sent it home, so i will be doing a few dinner parties when i get back  There we have it, a three-course lunch, rather tasty if i do say so myself.
IMG_6819.jpgIMG_6823.jpgSlippery little buggers trying to escape!

Slippery little buggers trying to escape!

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

HUGE pile of lemongrass for less than 1 dollar

HUGE pile of lemongrass for less than 1 dollar

cooking class

cooking class

cooking class

cooking class

Khmer curry by moi

Khmer curry by moi


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With a very full belly I got the cockney tuktuk driver to take me out for a ride on the bamboo train, very very bizarre but so funny. This ‘train’ was once used by the farmers to transport rice and other crops from the fields into the towns. It is basically a crate, made from bamboo, that is sat on top of two sets of wheels for petrol-powered gliding along the track. They allow tourists to take joy rides on the train, through the fields and up to a nearby village. It is a single track running through but, is TWO WAY. So how does this work then? Well, you are happily chugging along and see somebody coming the other way on the same track. You stop and kind of look at each other, a bit of a stare-off, the loser has to get off the train and TAKE THE TRAIN OFF THE TRACK!! No joking, you firstly remove the bamboo platform, then the sets of wheels one by one, let the other train go past then assemble your train back onto the track to continue your journey!! OMG BRILIANT!!!!! We only had to do this the once though unfortunately as we were following close behind some other trains so as there were more of us than coming the other way we won the stare-off most times! It was also nice to see some of the countryside and see some small villages. On the way back, some boys came running towards the train waving so i waved back. They threw something at me, it landed on my train and i saw that it was flowers :) At one of our stops I met some cute smiley boys who sat with me my train and read me a story from their school books in English. I adore Cambodia and the people here, full of warmth, and full of surprises.
bamboo train

bamboo train

bamboo train, losing out on the stare-off and having to remove the train from the track!

bamboo train, losing out on the stare-off and having to remove the train from the track!

bamboo train

bamboo train


The cockney tuktuk driver on the way back to town was so intent on telling me jokes that he was turning right round to speak to me. ‘For goodness sake watch the road not me!!’ Yikes! We stopped off to check out the peace monument in a park just outside the city. Unveiled in 1997, this sculpture is made entirely of weapons that were destroyed following the atrocities. It commemorates the commitment, efforts and hopes of the Cambodian people in breaking away from their violent past and establishing a peaceful society. This is my wish too and i feel so privileged to have had the chance to experience this amazing country. I will be back I am sure....
for goodness sake watch the road and not me!

for goodness sake watch the road and not me!

Naga peace monument

Naga peace monument

IMG_6754.jpgSmoking pot cooking class

Smoking pot cooking class

IMG_6756.jpgIMG_6757.jpgWat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Language school

Language school

Language school

Language school

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Wat Tahm Rai Saw

Funeral procession

Funeral procession

Funeral procession

Funeral procession

Funeral procession

Funeral procession

Funeral procession

Funeral procession

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IMG_6797

Wat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

Wat Peapahd

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IMG_6827.jpgIMG_6829.jpgAbsolutely chucking it down

Absolutely chucking it down

No electricity on the streets at night, so market under candle light

No electricity on the streets at night, so market under candle light

Giving alms

Giving alms

Giving alms

Giving alms

Giving alms

Giving alms

Turtles ready for the pan!

Turtles ready for the pan!

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

Psah Nath market

This was once a pig i think!

This was once a pig i think!

cooking class

cooking class

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IMG_6876

bamboo train

bamboo train

bamboo train

bamboo train

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IMG_6892b

bamboo train

bamboo train

bamboo train

bamboo train

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Posted by Spinky 23:15 Archived in Cambodia

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Comments

Maybe you've got a career ahead of you in teaching too Spinky!!! Your time in Cambodia looks amazing...and so does the food, yummy!!! And OMG I spotted a photo of mangosteens in your Market scene, if you haven't tried them yet, you MUST eat them! Emily and I ate a million in Thailand, so delicious! Keep having fun babes, miss you a lot, but love reading your blogs, big hugs, Sarah (aka Miss Kearney!) xxx

by Sarah Kearney

Loving your updates chuck. So now you can add teacher or chef to your other potential career options when you get back (along with writer and photographer). Your pics are beautiful. Love and hugs. Clare x

by Clare Nuttall

Hi,
You really made me laugh. What a fab time & great pictures!They really make you want to go out there. On the bamboo train you look like you have really lost weight! Scott was down for the neighbours it was good to catch up I am glad you both had a good holiday. I just had an op on my shoulder, had a rough time in hospital, but on the road to recovery now. Jonathan was able to come down for a couple of days which was great.
How are you enjoying Australia? Sarah is in Melbourne now. She also really enjoyed Cambodia, more so than Vietnam. Hope you are keeping well. Look forward to hear more of your travels.
Love Joy

by Joy Flad

Damnit I miss mangosteens, take me back to Asia NOW :))) No I am loving it here in Oz actually, just about to go on a three day liveaboard to whitsundays and diving the Great Barrier Reef, one of my dreams :)) Sadly Miss Kearney, the Spank me boat is not running this week!!

Joy, I was in Melbourne a few days ago for a gig, where is Sarah heading now? Scott told me he saw you and about your shoulder. Hope you have a speedy recovery. Yes I lost some weight in Asia, difficult not to with all the stuff i was doing, but think i put some back on with all the boozing in Oz!!
Thanks for your lovely comments guys really appreciate it, lots and lots of love from a nice warm and sunny Queensland :) xxx

by Spinky

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