Day 14: Siem Reap to Battambang

Not much occurred today, just another travel day. We decided last minute that we wanted to come to Battambang. Last night we spoke about what we could do today and we didn’t just want to pay to fill the day with something we didn’t really want. I had been keen on coming to Battambang and wanted one last taste of rural Cambodia before heading to Thailand. We decided quite spur of the moment that we’d pack up and leave the next day. We just had to wait for our washing to be done and then we could go.

Everything ran surprisingly smoothly and we got on a nice big coach here. We booked into a hotel for $2.50 a night each, and you get what you pay for. Exposed wires by the shower, no bedding, basic facilities and on the 8th floor. But we’ve got beds, a fan and a bathroom and it’s all we need for two nights! We’ve booked up a tuc tuc for tomorrow to take us round the countryside which will be nice.

After checking in we headed out to find some food. We asked for a recommendation and every time we have to explain we don’t want western food. Why come here and eat pie and mash? We were then recommended to try the night markets, one very near us and one down the river. We nosied through the first one which was mainly fresh fruit and meat (covered in flies). The tarpaulin covered were so low. The locals seemed to be able to walk freely under them but we looked like hunch backs! We were mostly just ignored and accepted for being there apart from one woman who was buying a big load of meat, saw us then put her hands out, asking for money. We said “no” and she shrugged it off like “worth a try”. I do feel like people either see an alien or dollar signs when they look at us. Or the guys leer. It makes it hard to just settle in and chat to people.

Anyway we found the hot food stalls and decided to be brave and order something. I pointed to one bowl of food and received it in a plastic bag. Not sure if I was supposed to eat it immediately, take it home or what, but I just tucked in. It was glass noodles with bean sprouts and some other things. It was quite squishy. There were brown and black squishy things in it and it tasted mildly of fish. I thought it might be seaweed but I have no idea. It cost $0.50, it’s crazy. I also got a sugar cane drink for $0.25 which is delicious. We need them in Britain. I walked along with my market food, and we went to the other market to see what was going on.

The second night market had areas I sit down and eat with larger carts selling food. What I got before was a small portion and we sat down to eat properly. This sort of place is where you get delicious noodle dishes for super cheap. Forget western places! As we were sat we noticed a few children milling around. They were all begging. The stall owners didn’t seem to care, pinching them to make them move on. The kids had no shoes on and tattered clothes, it was heart breaking. One of the children even got down on his knees to someone with his face on the floor and begged. Everyone just shunned him. The kids would run up to seats that had been left and eat the leftovers. We left some food and paid because it was so hard to watch.

Walking home we realised we hadn’t been hassled by any tuc tuc drivers and generally the attitudes of people made us feel quite safe in this city, more so than in others. No one was trying to rip us off and one lady stopped us when we had forgotten our change (meaning she’d have received 4x the pay for the sugarcane).

As we walked further I saw about 6 men standing around quite menacingly where we wanted to walk. They were dressed in khaki and had guns on them. I thought they might be army. You could see them spot us and take note as we walked by, coming up very close to us and then following us up the path. At this point I felt threatened and quite concerned. I fixed my eyes on the floor and walked through them briskly. They had an air of superiority and self serving power about them. I saw a truck marked “Police” and where this should normally make you feel better, it made me feel worse. We forced conversation between us and fixed our eyes down, hoping they would ignore us. Luckily they did. We got past and sighed a huge sigh of relief, stunned that of all things it was the police that scared us!


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