Friday 6 April, 2018
Day 9 / Pailin to Battambang
[Missed Day 8? Read the previous post here]
Today’s ride will take us to the bigger town of Battambang. There don’t seem to be any convenience stores around so we decide to get straight into the cycling and figure out breakfast along the way. Cheye points out a bike lady selling baguettes outside the hotel but on closer inspection they’re all made with meat fillings so we carry on.
There don’t seem to be any shops selling food of any kind so we decide to stop as a gas station and pick up some crackers, biscuits and Choco Pies to tide us over. I’ve never liked Choco Pies but they seem to be in every Asian food store all over the world. We munch on a few snacks before heading off. It’s not the most nutritious breakfast but anything to stop us fading out later.
Not too much further down the road we come to a lady selling bananas at a small roadside stall so we stop to buy a bunch.
The lady has three kids behind her so we decide to give them the Choc Pies. Another three kids emerge so we pull out the rest of the biscuits and give them what we have left. Suddenly ANOTHER four kids emerge from next door. I hope they’re not expecting treats because we have nothing left. We leave before the rest of the neighbourhood kids join them expecting treats.
It’s a very hot day of cycling. We decide to stick to the highway but Cambodian highways are very different to those in Thailand – far less traffic and fumes and much more enjoyable! There were a few areas where roadworks were taking place though, and it got so dusty that we could barely see the road ahead.
At one point we have two young boys wanting to race us on the bikes – and despite their rusty old bikes they’re pretty fast! They chase us for a few kms before realising they are probably quite far from home but it was nice to have a laugh, most of which I caught on the GoPro.
Something you also notice is a lot more kids running out to wave to you and say hello.
We also make a stop for some coconut juice before we reach Battambang and find our hotel for the night.
After checking in and parking our bikes in the hotel foyer (in what looked like a disused fountain) we head out for lunch at Monorom Restaurant, a vegetarian place across the road and one of the reasons I chose that particular hotel.
They serve a buffet lunch during the day and ala carte in the evenings. It’s one of those places that charge you by weight, and I’m so hungry I grab a bit of everything and it still only costs about USD $4. The food is so good that we not only go back for dinner but also get a pre-packed lunch for our boat ride the next day.
I am SO stuffed from lunch that we decide to head into town to walk it off. I also exchange what remaining Thai Baht I have. I exchange my cash at the Royal Hotel, which has a better rate than the money exchange place across the road. As we wait for our US Dollars we notice a European couple having an argument, and they’re not discreet about it either.
We head to the market and notice lots of stalls selling sea snails. They are seasoned with either chilli or sea salt and looks as though you scoop out the flesh with a long stick. We buy a few things from the market (not sea snails) and bakery before heading back to the hotel to recover from our long ride today. Cheye loves browsing local TV channels when we travel so we watch some bad singing shows and international football being broadcast.
Before we left on this trip, Cheye and I made a bet on how many times we would be hassled by tuk tuk drivers during the trip. I said 50, Cheye said 150. Today is the first day we were approached by any tuk tuk drivers during the entire trip. They are perched outside our hotel, ready to pounce the moment you set foot outside. We book our boat tickets for the next day ($20 each). We are told to pay for the bikes separately when we get to the boat – usually $5 extra per bike but the hotel manager says to tell them he said $3 each. Another great thing about the hotel is it’s just 5 minutes down the road to the ferry terminal.
We realise that we will arrive in Siem Reap tomorrow and plan to go straight to the temples so I need to figure out my clothing situation. To enter some of the temples, you need to wear respectable clothing (ie. shoulders and knees must be covered). I only have shorts, singlets and cycling gear so figure I need to buy a few things tonight. I buy a pair of those comfy but daggy travel pants you see all the backpackers wearing ($3) plus an Angkor Wat shirt ($2.50). They end up being the only souvenirs I buy for myself the entire trip. After having dinner at Monorom again (as well as organising lunch packs for tomorrow) we pack and get everything ready for the journey tomorrow.
Distance cycled: 85km (Undulating highways, quieter than Thai highways)
Time spent cycling: 4 hrs 2 min
Accommodation: Asia Hotel (USD $14)
Lunch & Dinner: Monorom Vegetarian Restaurant
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