Weddings & Water Festival! Over the past days we have seen many set-ups for weddings with orange, yellow & red curtains & bunting. Weddings take place in Nov, Dec & Jan during the dry season, for obvious reasons. It is almost a full moon, a Buddha Day and the time of the Water Festival giving thanks for the water. So there are big celebrations planned in the temples where people bring food & there is much more chanting & music to be heard over loudspeakers. It's Sunday & we even see some locals attending a church service.
Street numbering is interesting here. Very straightforward as there are 3 main streets in the town - Street 1, Street 2 & Street 3. However, there are other streets in between such as Street 1.5, 2.5 etc! What could be simpler??? As we set off we soon leave the town behind & see a group of men watching cock-fighting, which is illegal here but so is much else!
Everywhere to be seen is an illegal form of transport. It is made of a small tractor engine & wheels at the front with plough share handles attached. The chassis is elongated and has either a platform or trailer top behind the driver. At the rear are larger wheels. This gives the vehicle the look of a Drag Racing car. Its overall length is 18-20 ft! This gives even more space to carry people or goods. Today we saw a travelling haystack , old-fashioned variety, on the back of one!
The Killing Caves are half way up Phnom Sampeau hill where a golden reclining Buddha lies next to a memorial filled with bones of those brutally murdered in the caves by the Khmer Rouge. One cave was used for men & one for women. Another one of the 200 known sites of killing in Cambodia.
We finish the climb to the summit of Phnom Sampeau for spectacular views of the rural countryside. Amazing paddy fields stretch as far as the eye can see. The local area is successful agriculturally so does not rely on tourism. However, the caves are one of the draws to the area. On the way down we see the entrance to another huge cave where about 4 million fruit bats live. Apparently it is quite a spectacle to see them leave the cave at sunset.
There is a local winery famous for producing a local grape based cognac & red wine from Shiraz grapes. The only winery in Cambodia! Quite an enterprise to start up in this country. We do a tasting & the cognac is quite drinkable. Might be another 5 years before the wine reaches he same standard though!
Phnom Banan - 358 step climb to the ruins of an impressive 5 spire temple at the summit, some think the inspiration for Angkor Wat. Sadly there has been some looting in the past & parts of statues stolen The views from here are also stunning down the huge fertile valley. Worth the climb!
Over lunch the sky darkens & we are caught in a monsoon-like downpour. There have been a couple of these short, sharp showers in the past days, always in the afternoon. Unseasonal and due to a depression following in the wake of the typhoon.
A wonderful lady in her late 70s welcomes us into her home, a local ancient house now 100 years old, built with rare woods. It only survived the Pol Pot regime because a local commander used it as a kitchen for 200 troops. Mahogany & another local hard woods have been used for the floors & the roof is tiled, very rare. Her story is very sad as she is almost the only surviving member of her family of academics. Her husband, a professor, was taken & never returned. She does not know what happened to him. She speaks to us in French as she speaks no Englsh. Our guide Pat also has been lucky. His father, at one time the village's head priest, was arrested but allowed to escape from prison by friends. He spent 5 months in the jungle before escaping to Thailand with his family. They then spent 8 years in a UNICEF camp before returning to their village.
What a fantastic fun way to end our visit to Battambang - a ride on the Bamboo Train! The 'trains', or Noris, are a form of transport indigenous to Battambang & are made from flatbed mine sweepers used in the civil war with a bamboo platform on top, It is powered by a motor bike engine & runs on old (circa 1930), wavy, uneven railway tracks! Our driver relishes travelling the 7 Km at speed as we feel every bump over an uneven joint! It is single track so when meeting a Nori coming in the other direction the largest group have to lift their platform & wheels off the track to let the other pass!
Brilliant fun ... & we meet some travellers from Burnley, in the middle of rural Cambodia!
Once again, it is incredible how adaptive and ingenious the locals are wherever we have been in repairing, reusing and recycling anything!
Off to sleep to the sound of fireworks & more chants for the full moon Water Festival!