First of all, a quick report on how we’re feeling. Monday was spent basically just laying around and sleeping on and off and I’m happy to report that we are now mostly back to normal. About the most ambitious thing we did was go for a walk by the pool. It was nice to get up yesterday morning and be hungry - really hungry.
I’m writing this from a hotel room in Battambang. We haven’t been around the city really at all yet, just getting to the hotel and then a quick drive over to the restaurant last night to eat. But, I can tell you already that it feels different. For one, there are very few tuk tuks on the streets. Siam Reap was all about the tourists and I now realize that the number of tuk tuks flying by was a result of that. Here in Battambang it’s more of a “normal” city that apparently doesn’t have as many foreign visitors. There are, however, a LOT of scooters.
Anyway, I’m getting side tracked. This post is more about the getting to Battambang. We had breakfast in the morning and then eventually packed up and checked out of the hotel. Rosa’s niece’s husband owns a car and uses it as a taxi (apparently he’s a dentist as well - go figure) and we crammed us all in for the two hour drive over. By crammed I mean no rules, no seat belts, the old fashioned sit on your lap kind of crammed. It wasn’t so bad really.
There were only 8 of us in the Camry and the car had air conditioning and I got to see the Cambodian countryside. By the way, the countryside is very flat and green with lots of rice fields. It was very interesting to see the people working and the various differences in living conditions. I am fascinated by how versatile the motorcycle is over here. I have seen all kinds of things carried on them - whole families, baskets filled with stuff, and farm equipment. I saw an old woman carrying a TV in front of her and even a stack of large mattresses (balanced very carefully no doubt). They seem to be able to two anything from a tuk tuk to a large container for hauling coconuts or really anything else.
About 20 minutes outside of Battambang we stopped at the place where Rosa and her family lived at one point when she was young.
The family that lives there now (they have a small store in the front and a newer place to live) is the brother of Sokha’s husband (the one that just passed away) and Rosa tells me that they are are about the same age and used to tend the cows and oxen together when they were little. Rosa even got a little teary-eyed as she remembered some of the memories she had of playing there.
By the way, interesting tidbit of information. I have seen along the road at various places these stands where they have large bottles of soda lined up seemingly for sale. Some of them are very colorful and I wasn’t sure what they were. While we were talking to the family I wandered a bit and noticed one out in front of their store.
While I was watching a motorcycle pulled up and they came out and took one of the bottles and added it to the tank. Mystery solved. It’s an interesting system that seems to work pretty good.
We got back in the car and went down the road another half mile or so to where Rosa’s sister Sophy lives with her husband and family. We stayed there for little while and visited with everyone.
They live about 15 minutes outside of Battambang and still live in the same place as they did when Rosa was a little girl. Sophy’s husband is a very friendly guy and was a lot of fun to talk to. He loves European soccer and boxing and seemed intrigued with me. :-) They raise pigs and chickens and have a small garden where they grow all kinds of vegetables and fruit. The oranges over here are green and stay green when ripened. I didn’t realize that this variety existed but hey, I’m learning all kinds of things this trip. They also had a guava tree and papaya and some that I didn’t recognize. Life is certainly simple over here, but they are starting to get more of the modern conveniences. For example, notice the satellite dish next to the papaya tree.
After a we visited for a while, Sophy’s husband jumped in the car with us (now 9 total) and we finished the trip into Battambang. Before we came we heard stories about the police stopping us on occasion to “inspect” or something like that. Apparently, this is how they earn their money and in order to get passed the checkpoint you pay a dollar or something along those lines. As we entered the city we passed one of those checkpoints and an officer started to waive us over to the side. However, the driver just yelled out something to him and he waived us on passed. It turns out that it was a relative of Sophy’s husband (sisters kid or something along those lines). So, squeaked by another one. :-)
We checked into a hotel and everyone went out for dinner together. Just after we arrived it started to rain really, really hard - but it only lasted 10 minutes or so. Supposedly this is the beginning of the rainy season over here, but so far this is the first time we’ve seen any real rain. We ate until we were stuffed and they headed back to the hotel. We had a very relaxing evening where we sat around and played games.
It was a nice way to end a very nice day.