Our first stop in Cambodia was Battambang, an old colonial town and the capital of Battambang province (“the rice bowl of Cambodia) in northwestern Cambodia. This was very much a low-key, stop – a little biking, a little time at the pool, and lots of good food.
Mark and I spent a week in Cambodia in January 2002 after having traveled through Vietnam. I remember noticing two things then: I’d never seen so many amputees and the people just didn’t seem as happy, didn’t smile as much as the Vietnamese. Both of those, I’m sure, were related to the then still recent history of the murderous Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. As many as 3 million people – out of a population of 8 million – died during his reign of terror, and even after the Vietnamese ousted him from power in 1979 he still operated near here in northwestern Cambodia until 1997. After one stop so far, things seem quite different, or at least different from my memory. People are poor, to be sure, but we encountered lots of smiling people. Perhaps time does heal eventually.
At any rate, here are some pictures of the area.
The border crossing in Pailin. There are legendary stories of hours-long lines at the border crossing a little south of here, but the crossing at Pailin – Pol Pot’s last refuge and pronounced the same as the name of the former half-term governor of Alaska, proving nothing good comes from a name like that – took but minutes as we walked from Thailand into Cambodia.
SIgns for the Cambodia People’s Party were everywhere – as in easily five or more per kilometer as we drove towards Battambang. We’re going to suggest to the DNC that they do the same. Maybe if there were signs that said “Democratic Party” with pictures of Barack Obama and Joe Biden every 200 yards or so along highways the Tea Party would love them. Right?
The food has been great. One or the other of us had this dish – fish amok, fish in a spicy peanut sauce, served in a banana leaf “bowl” – every day at lunch. Dinners were around $24 total, including wine!
Mark’s view of the pool at our hotel
I met these kids while biking outside of Battambang. They had a bug that they were very happy with.
The rice bowl of Cambodia
This was the river I was biking along, and this is how residents move from one side of the river to the other.
Lots of temples along the bike route
Mark and I weren’t the only lazy ones in Battambang…
Putting the Bat into Battambang, we went to a Bat Cave. Yup, a cave outside of town where, at sunset, millions of bats fly out for their nightly feeding.
They form a flowing, undulating “river” of bats every night
Young monks came for the bat show, too
Locals on bike
And another cutie who liked riding with me