Cambodia Battambang 2002.03.24 - 03.26

Unexpected Ride

Getting to Battambang from Siem Reap was much more interesting than the city itself. At the time of ticket purchase, we were told Battambang was 3 hours by boat.

The next morning at 07:15, a truck transferred us from our guesthouse to the river dock in one hour. The truck ride was followed by a slow boat that sputtered for 30 minutes to another dock in Tonle Sap Lake. We transferred a second time to a speedboat with chronic engine trouble loaded 300% of safe capacity. 3 hours on the speedboat took us to a third transfer point. Some of the passengers were transferred to a third boat and the remainder were put on a dump truck. We were in the dump truck.

12 people and luggage were piled into the truck bed that was comfortably padded with straw. Nothing could prepare one for this truck ride. Driving through jungle, vegetation brushed through the truck bed's metal bar perimeter. Falling branches and leaves rained, camouflaging the tourists lying low to avoid injury from thorned shrub branches. Some people were unlucky. One man's ear was torn and another dripped blood from his forehead. The truck continued to amble on at 10 km/h as we took cover from repeated vegetation attacks. At the 3 km mark, the path deteriorated from packed dirt to sludge. Our dump truck accelerated to clear several meters of sludge before sinking in deep. The workers used a winch attached to the truck frame to pull the truck forward little by little. A 2 km mud stretch took 2 hours to pull through. The total distance on the truck portion of our journey was a mere 15 km. The duration: 4 hours. Close to Battambang was our fourth transfer point. An air-conditioned minibus dispatched from Royal Hotel loaded the sweat-drenched, foliage-covered, bleeding passengers for the final 5 km dirt road stretch to the center of Battambang. Every passenger chose a room at Royal Hotel for accommodation. Nobody had the energy to investigate other nearby hotel options.

Battambang is the second largest city in Cambodia and the least beautiful of our 3 stops in the country. Surrounding tourist sites, including Wat Ek, are dull compared to the awesome Angkor.

Our dump truck sunk into sludge numerous times en route to Battambang.
The ruins of Wat Ek are close to tumbling. Although it's one of the highlights of the Battambang area, the remains are anticlimactic after a visit to Angkor.

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