Feb. 6: Tuk Tuk Tour around Battambang

February 5 was a do-nothing kinda day as Sue was flat out with heat exhaustion. I started catching up on the blog after walking around downtown Battambang in the morning. Although the second largest city in Cambodia, Battambang’s an agricultural community: early to rise and early to bed. It’s not much of a tourist mecca although many tourists pass through it on their way to other destinations.

The next day Sue was feeling relatively normal so we decided to take a tuk tuk tour around some of the local sights. From our room window we could see the tuk tuks waiting for fares in front of our hotel.

tuk tuks, Royal Hotel, Battenbang, Cambodia
Tuk Tuks in Morning

Our first stop was a tour on a bamboo railway, a common form of transport in Cambodia, especially in the Battambang area. The cars are bamboo platforms set on detached axles which run on standard gauge railway tracks. Here you can see the bottom of the platform, the axles and the loose drive-belt dangling down.

bamboo railway, Battenbang, Cambodia
Where the Wheel Meets the Track

Sue and I had an entire ‘car’ to ourselves but ahead of us were a group of locals on one with a motorcycle – a typical load.

bamboo railway, Battambang, Cambodia
Locals on Bamboo Railway

The cars are propelled along the track by Briggs and Stratton engines which are mounted on the rear. The driver controls the speed by changing the tension of the drive-belt using a pole to move the engine. Very simple, very quick to take apart and put together; which is necessary when cars meet cars coming the other way on the tracks. Because the car ahead of us had more passengers, plus the motorbike, cars coming the other way had to be removed to make way for us.

dismounting, bamboo railway, Battambang, Cambodia
Making Way
driver, bamboo railway, Battambang, Cambodia
Our Driver

Our turnaround point was at a small village around a brick factory. We stopped there and has refreshments at a stand by the tracks. While sipping sodas Sue asked what the jar (below) contained. We were told it was bananas in beer left to ferment and I was offered a shot glass of the grog. I took a sip and then knocked it back. Warm but not unpleasant. I didn’t notice any effects, good or bad, thankfully!

grog, Battambang, Cambodia
Banana Grog

We then returned to where we’d started. I took the shot below as we went over a small bridge; just catching a seated young man as we whizzed by.

view along bamboo railway, Battambang, Cambodia
View from a Bridge

We made several stops as we toured around the countryside. Below is a photo of our driver Tony and his tuk tuk. For those fans of motorcycles note he is using a Sym 150, modified to take the weight of the passengers. The cart is easily detached from the pin it is hitched to.

tuk tuk, Battambang, Cambodia
Tony and his Tuk Tuk

We did see some more traditional forms of transport as we drove along.

wooden cart, Battambang, Cambodia
Traditional Transport

Along the way we stopped to admire some fruit bats, protected by monks in their trees at a pagoda, and (below) a bio fuel electric plant. We’d noticed new power lines along the road, which Tony told us were part of a joint project with a Thai company to supply power to the rural areas. Then he stopped to show us the former method of supplying power. Although it didn’t have the capability to supply the amount of power needed at the lower rate of the new hydro electric project, the bio fuel plant made a lot of sense. It produced  electricity by burning corn cobs mainly, available by the sack in this agricultural area. The plant was co-funded by SME Cambodia, Canada Fund and USAID.

bio fuel electrical plant, Battambang, Cambodia
Bio Fuel Electrical Plant

We then went for a short hike up a hill to visit Banan pagoda, proudly promoted by locals as the antecedent to,and inspiration for, Angkor. Despite her exhaustion the day before Sue made it up the hill in the heat of the day.

stairs to Banan Temple
Sue on the Stairs

You might just be able to make out Sue, sitting in the shade of the tower on the right.

Banan temple, Battambang, Cambodia

She called me over to take a look at this brightly colored lizard on the temple blocks near her.

lizard at Banan, Battambang, Cambodia
Bright Blue Lizard

After returning from our climb Tony drove us to a restaurant at the foot of a high hill for a lunch break. Sue struck up a conversation with a boy in a hammock next to our table.

lunchtime below Phnom Sampeu
Conversation at Lunchtime

From here we were driven to the top of the hill by motorbikes. At the top was Phnom Sampeau, a temple complex which included some caves. We took a pass on viewing the cave with the skulls of victims of the Khmer Rouge, who tossed people down into the cave to kill them.

Phnom Sampeu, Battambang, Cambodia
Phnom Sampeau

We took a look at the temple, the guns left by the Vietnamese who captured the hill from the Khmer Rouge and the caves with their shrines, including the large statue of Buddha (below).

giant Buddha, Phnom Sampeu
Large Buddha

After coming down the hill we started our tuk tuk ride back to Battambang. The road was under construction; very rough and very dusty. I took a photo looking back at Phnom Sampeau just as we hit a major bump in the road. The resulting photo (below) is the unaltered original, as it appeared, right out of the camera. Although my camera is still taking good photos I do notice  something seems loose inside.

looking back at Phnom Sampeau, Battambang, Cambodia
Unaltered Photo!

The road was very dusty…

dusty road to Battambang, Cambodia
On the Road

Sue covered her nose and mouth with her scarf and I with whatever was at hand…

dust protection, Battambang, Cambodia
Dust Protection

Red dust covered the trees and homes along the road. Signs of progress as Cambodia recovers from the of years of civil war and joins the growing SE Asian economies.

Battambang was nice enough but the urge to get to the beach put us on the bus the next morning.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Kelly and Sue
    This is Dave. I haven’t talked to you for 6 weeks I guess and I ‘ve seen your blog and travels. I am staying in Koh Samui Thailand until April 5th.

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