Main Page     All Journeys    Travel Tips


Photos   Map & Plan


Diary 1  2  3  4  5  6  7 

From Diary 1 and the south-western wilderness, I now explore the north-western Cambodia.
I am up early - maybe too early, and finding breakfast causes a problem. Then just before I reach the car, Gloria Jean's offers pasteurise and tea. I go for a medium mug, and get a bucket of scolding hot tea. It remain that way after I have finished eating, and I get it in a "to-go" cup.

I put it in the car, and start looking for an ATM. But the car won't open, and it turns out the battery is flat, and not the little one in the remote. And I did NOT leave the lights on. Could be causes by a short circuit due to yesterday's rattling around, the rain which felt during the night or just the car getting back at me? I consider my self lucky it didn't give up on that long, desolate road yesterday - same goes for the rain!

I call the rental company, but they consider it my problem. I ask a girl in the nearest shop, and her first customer know a mechanic. He drive me through town on his moped, but his friend is busy. He find another one nearby, and he grab some tools and a starter-battery and jump on our moped.
He get the car started at once with his battery, and can't find any errors on it. He have never heard of jump-starting cables, and it seems to be an unknown thing in Cambodia. I let him drive back to his garage in my car, and then I head out for adventures. I hope the car feel, we are even now!

I have two sights around Battambang, both fifteen kilometres out. I chose what seems to be the less interesting to start with; Prasat Banan, which is an old ruin on a mountain top. A staircase with 358 steps leads up to the top, but the surroundings sucks me in. Post-huts in a mirror lake, another lake with a bunch of white herons and huge trees, cliffs of almost marble and attractive nature in general.

I do a long walk in the area, and see some of the biggest butterflies, I have ever seen. And numerous other species of butterflies too. Some skinks are too quick, just like the grasshoppers. I have more success with the giant lianas and the few flowers.

Then I find a cave. It is more a sink-hole, but the bats love it, and someone have places a few religious figures in it. The ladders leading down to it, is slimy, rotten and seems unused for ages. I check if I can climb up another way, before I head down the cave. On the way up, two steps give in.

I follow a small path up the mountain, hoping to reach the top. And I do. Or at least the long set of stairs leading up to it. It is a fantastic place! This 11th century temple was build by king Udayadityavarman II in the same style as Angkor Wat. Here are five towers, which have had extensive rock carvings and probably colouring. The light is perfect, so is the sky, and I get some fine photos.
The trees are blocking the view to the fields, but from what I can see, it ought to be a great view.

I take the stairs down, and see a new Buddha-thing and the lake. A cup of tea, served with both fresh- and condensed milk, while I look over the lake. And no tourists but me. Could be worse...
But I have other sights in mind. The GPS have a narrow "V" in mind, passing Battambang - I think it is working more for the car, than me. I can see a gravel-road which connect the two sights. I save 20 kilometres and it could be interesting.

And it is for sure. It is a beautiful road, leading thought newly sown and harvested rice patches, lotus ponds, cattle, huts and nature. I see an overloaded moped, a farmer drying his rice, Indian oxen, ponds with lotus flowers and then the Phnom Sampeau, way up on a pointy mountain.

Before I get to it, I check-out one of the fancy looking temples, which I have passed a few of. They seems to be closed, but the exterior is impressive.
A narrow path leads to a small line of native restaurants, and I find a set of stairs, leading up the mountains side. I had expected way more, with many tourist busses and souvenir shops, and wonder if I'm the right place? The stairs seems like they are never used - or at least swept. 

I pass some more or less deserted tiny shops, and get to one of the caves. One of the caves should have millions of bats, but this one only host a few - I think. I hear some, but the only animals I see are some banana-fed monkeys along the stairs leading to the cave. A few large Buddha statues in standing- sitting- and reclining postures are placed in various building, some just corroded tinplates.

A long walk bring me to the top, where a bright young kid show me around. The golden temple is from 1964, and it is surrounded by other religious buildings. None are really that impressive, but the view over the plains are for sure.
It seems like half of Cambodia can be seen from here, on a clear day like this. It is said this is peak season for tourists, but I'm the only pale around. They don't see the potential in their sights.

I find some small trails leading around the mountain, and head out for a bit more botanizing. A single, rather large Euphorbia seems to be the only new discovery. Slight disappointing, where the first sight was a real treat.
I head back to Battambang. The car starts like nothing have happened. Either it was a once in a lifetime experience, or is save some for a rainy day? I wished I could find some jump-start-cables!

Back in town, I start looking for a place to get my camera-battery-charger fixed - again. Then I investigate the central market. It is so clean, and it seems like gold smiths are the most numerous. I still look for a small Buddha head, but end up with a bone statue of Buddha in the typical Cambodian style. Some of these I asked on, turned out to be ivory, but I find one, which is magnificent work for a third of that price. Must be bone...
I find the guy who sit and carve them, and he say plastic. But it is for sure pieces of tusk he have in the back. Anyway, he make a great job with his small knives.

A tour around the market give the usual dry fish, live fish, plastic, cloths, vegetables, eggs and meat. Then I head around in old colonial Battambang and look for architecture. It is here, but under the many billboards and other huge signs.

It is time for dinner, and I piece some together in the night-market. But it is so hard avoiding the meat, fish and shrimps! I end up with fried bean-sprouts and have to top-up with a pizza and some caramelised peanuts.
I get a cup of tea in a fancy place. But the young man ask me, how I drink hot tea: Milk and sugar, please. He have never seen that combination! But he does speak quite some English, and it turns out, he actually study English. But he have only had teachers from Cambodia, India and Malaysia - neither without a heavy accent.
I spend some time mainly listening to him about his life and family. Then I head home to start working on the days photos, which I hope are great. The motives was for sure.
Somehow, it get midnight again, before I done just with the essentials. The photos of the sights are in Prasat Banan and Phnom Sampeau.

4/1 The car start like nothing have happened, I think - and hope - I have figured the problem: When one door is open just two millimetres, the hazard lights will go on after some time, and perhaps other "vital" operations. I hate cars that are "smart"!

I get some bread at a bakery, and head out of Battambang towards the north. A few kilometres out, I pass a bridge with a great view over a bend in the river with lotus. Perfect for breakfast, except the lack of tea. And the fact the big scone turns out to be filled with meat.

Despite it is a good road, the traffic is real light; mainly mopeds. The first part is rice patches with a few, small and scatted trees. In Sisophon, I find some tea and a rest. I is a small town, and don't seems to have any interesting sights, except the temple at the river.
The road towards the Banteay Chhmar temple head out in the north-western corner of Cambodia, and so do I. A short stop at a temple, but despite the building look so glorious, the interior is closed up.

The first sight in the Banteay Chhmar area is a magnificent bridge. Well, it was until the Thai nicked all the heads in 1998. It is two  snakes which are held by numerous men, creating the sides of the bridge.
The entire area was once enclosed by a nine kilometre wall, but now it is mainly the moat that is visible.

Within is the huge temple area build by Jayavarman VII, who ruled from 1181 to 1219. The buildings have suffered from huge trees and earthshakes, but some of the massive bas-reliefs are still intact, and so are some of the towers. Here are actually 2000 square metres of them!

I find the right entrance, pay the five dollars, and rejects a guide. The first I see is a little snake, which are in a real defensive mode. Then the first buildings starts, and it is so much Indiana Jones experience. Well, except I have it to my self; no bad guys or other tourists mingle.

The sandstone carvings are fantastic, and so well preserved. The buildings, on the other hand are for a big part just piles of sandstone. It must have looked astonishing, when it was complete.
As I'm here all by my self, I walk around as it pleases me. Well, here are Chalotes and skinks along with butterflies, but they don't mind me much.

I try to catch the buildings, the carvings and the atmosphere. The huge fig trees offers shade, but are so destructive to the walls. Some of the buildings are complete enough to offer indoor tours. The roofs are not made by arches, and the vide is there for limited.
I do most of the centre temple area, and some of the satellite temples. The area in-between are used for grassing, and only a few interesting plants are found here. I had hoped for way more nature.

After several hours, I have seen sandstone enough for one day, and head on. The nearby village is real rural, and I fail to find anything hot to eat, not containing meat. I see the small market, and the pigs out back at the sweet-potato drying area.

The area, from the turn-of at Sisophon and up here, are dominated by sweet-potatoes. When they are harvested, they get chopped up and dried in the sun. And here are mountains of them! Every tuck-tuck, rice tractor and huge truck seems to be filled with white, dry potato material.

Back in Sisophon, I find a cup of tea and a meal. It is still early in the afternoon, and I head on towards the large town of Siem Reap, which will be my base for Preah Khan and the Angkor temples. The area turns in to a flat rice patch plain, with little to see.
When I reach the city, I have been driving 300 kilometres, but the roads have been good, and the traffic light. The road leading into town is lined with huge, post hotels. I find a little guest house, out of the centre.

When I have secured a room - as the only guest - I want to drive into the centre of town, but the car refuses to start. The battery is full, but no ignition. Well, It have been a warm day, and I'll let it rest, while I start walking.
The GPS say 3,3 Km, and when a tuck-tuck driver offers his services, I'm game. Especially because I'm not sure where the interesting part of town actually is.

He drives me through, what could be interesting streets, but I am fare from prepared for what meets us down-town. It is packed with pale-faced tourists, and here are the shops, restaurants and bars for ten times that many. The old marked is 70% tourist shops, but the rest is still real charming, and provide the locals with fresh food.

Despite I have found several souvenirs, I still want to find the one I have in mind, and I go into this inferno of tourist shops. They have pretty much the same, but one shop is different, and I find exactly the Buddha head I have been looking for.

Then it is time for dinner, and Little Khmer Restaurant offers some genuine local food, and to such low prices. It is real tasty, and I might return.
I try to find my way back, hoping to find a cup of tea on the way. After quite some, not so determined walking, I end up at Little Khmer Restaurant again! They have tea, and I treat myself with a pineapple shake as well.

The Bar Street is lighted up, and here are quite some people. The bridges are each one decorated with colourful LED lights. Some like traditional bridges, some with rainbows and other silly things. All in all a bit tacky, but real cosy as well. A tuck-tuck bring me the last bit home, as the road with the large hotels are not that interesting for three kilometres. A test-start of the car, and it have no problems now.

I start working at eight, realising the numerous pictures will be tacked "Banteay Chhmar" alone for the bigger part. Then I have to work quite some on my job, and it get real late again. Banteay Chhmar get a slideshow.

5/1 It is a greyish morning, and I start the day with some accounting. VAT have to be paid, wages to my self and so on. The the hunt for breakfast sets in. The first restaurants have one attitude to vegetarian: "No have". The huge and new Shopping Arcade have no restaurants. Some are closed, but finally one have American-, English-, Norwegian- (with salmon) and Healthy Breakfast. The last does not contain any meat, but on the other hand, not much food either.

The GPS is set to Preah Khan, the large temple complex. It is only twelve kilometres away, but somehow, it seems like I have to drive right through Angkor Wat with its hundreds of tourist busses, elephants and general crowds.
Then I finally make it to the temple of the day (or not), but apparently, I should have bought a ticket in the Welcome Centre, 15 kilometres away! It is administrated by the Angkor Wat area, and at least, the $40 will last for three days at any sight around here. (Later I find out; I got to the wrong Preah Khan temple complex. This one is part of Angkor Wat, while the other is fare away. I'll see this one). Twelve kilometres later, I'm at the entrance once again, but now I gone hungry. One of the nearby tents offers fried noodles with vegetables, and it is tasty.

The entrance to the temple complex is impressive. First the classic "a lot of angry men hold two snakes" bridge over the moat, then three towers with high walls to the sides.
Inside are numerous buildings in red sandstone. All decorated with carvings, some in good condition, some piles of boulders.

The place have truly this "Lost World Ambience", and despite it is that close to the main attraction, only a few have found out here. It is one of the largest complexes within Angkor. It was build by Jayavarman VII around 1191 AD. The inner constructions covers an area of 700 times 800 metres, and the numerous buildings forms endless motives. Especially if the sun was a bit more cooperative.

Many buildings are still rather intact, and the bats have a home in some. While I walk around within the main buildings, the only flowers I find are terrestrial orchids of a, for me, unknown genera. When I head into the forests within the walls, hardly any flowers are found. That does not hinder a wide range of butterflies to be found in the area.
Here are some interesting ferns, Peperomias, Selaginellas and of cause the wall-cracking fig trees. A few huge clusters of epiphytic orchids sit in the trees, but have only fruits by now. I finally manages to get close to one of the golden skinks. Small ponds are found within the complex.

I exit at an other portal, and do a long walk around the forest to get back. Despite the water filled ponds, the sandy soil are real dry, and does not support small plants.
A huge lake have several flowering plants in its low water, and the scenery is fantastic.

On the way back through the temples, I make some more photos, but it all start too look alike. Considering I'm going to do the rest of Angkor Wat tomorrow, I head home rather early. I make a detour around the farmland, and see some newly sown rice and other idyllic sceneries.

Back at four, I start working on the photos - which somehow look a bit alike... Common for them is the bad light of the day - and red sandstone bricks. All in one slideshow: Temples of Preah Khan.
Spend the evening chatting with Ann, who is a volunteer English teacher around the world. Real interesting evening, and so nice to get feedback from someone who actually understand what I say.
The general photos of the first part of North-Western Cambodia have their own show.

Despite I'm still exploring the north-western Cambodia, the tour will continue in Diary 3

Photos   Map & Plan   Diary 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8