Before entering Cambodia I had heard so many travelers say that Cambodia is their favourite place in South East Asia. My expectations were high but I couldn’t find “the magic” from Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked those places but something was missing.. until I came to Battambang! As soon as I stepped out of the bus I knew that this place would be special. And it was! I had no setbacks except when I tried to leave from Battambang. I will tell you about that in another post..
Even though Battambang is the second largest city of Cambodia it seems like a cute little town. Everything was almost perfect. The people, even the tuk tuk drivers, were very nice, my guesthouse was great, the city was compact but had things to do and to see, the food and drinks were affordable and tasty. I really have no complaints except that it was extremely hot in the middle of the day and the mosquitoes were meaner than in other places where I’ve been. But really, the people were really friendly and they treated you like you are one of them or their friend. I didn’t feel like “a walking money machine”. The people seemed to be interested in you and specially the children were so adorable. I heard and saw so many cute “hello” greetings and waves. My heart melted!
I spent a bit over two days in Battambang. On first day I explored the city randomly and visited some temples. I also went to see a bat cave which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Everyday thousands of bats fly out of their cave to get food and hundreds of tourists go to see this. I have to admit though that it was a very cool view! On the second day I did a half day bicycle tour with Soksabike. I had a really great guide and I was the only one doing the tour on that day so that was great. We went to the countryside and visited some local families and I was able to see e.g. how they make rice wine, rice paper, dried banana chips and rice cake cooked inside a bamboo. That trip was the best tour that I have ever made! I thought at first that it is a bit pricy, 27 USD, but after the trip I think it was totally worth it. I had a chance to try the delicacies, practice some Cambodian sentences and cycle which was so nice. I have really missed actually doing something active. I think we cycled 20km in the end. I could have cycled more because it was so much fun.
From the snacks that I ate during the tour, I liked the rice cake the most. It was so good and I think it is better than sticky rice. You peel the bamboo and eat the “cake” with your fingers. The crust is a bit harder than the inside and the texture is little dry but not too dry. My rice cake was made of coconut milk, rice and red beans. Yummy! Even though I really enjoyed the tour it was a bit sad to hear the reality of the families. They work so hard and the profit from their hard work is not big. All these experiences make me think the times when I complained that my paycheck is not big enough. Of course everything is relative and Finland really isn’t a cheap country to live in but I guess most important thing is to whine less and appreciate more what one has.
On the last evening in Battambang and in Cambodia, I got a chance to go to an open-air concert that was sponsored by Ganzberg beer brand. I went to the concert with my bicycle tour guide and his friends. I was very happy to be there because it was full of Cambodians and it was just the perfect ending for my time in Cambodia. I heard Cambodian pop and saw interesting performances. One thing that I have noticed from all the Cambodian music videos and what I was told about the songs is that Cambodians have lots of love songs! I mean a lot. :-D
Funny thing is that I got also an invitation to a wedding party but I declined the invitation because I think it wasn’t a good and a safe idea. The person who invited me to the wedding was the tuk tuk driver who took me to the bat cave. I hardly knew him and I would had been dependent on him because the wedding party was held like 5km outside the city. If only the party would had been inside the city I could had considered going..
Comments about the Ganesha Guesthouse:
- Very nice, friendly and helpful staff
- I even got a needle and a thread to fix couple of holes and they would had given me the whole thread if I would had wanted to take it.
- They have a movie room and they show The Killing fields movie every night and the ticket is only one dollar
- Very well-made movie but also really sad. I recommend watching it but the subject is very heavy.
- Mosquito net and a personal fan
- A con is that you can’t use both at the same time because they just don’t work together. Either you are free from the mosquitoes or free from the heat.
- Free pool and free towel
- Good food in the restaurant
- Only 4.5 USD per night in a mixed dorm
Yesterday I arrived to Bangkok and I noticed that I was missing Cambodia a bit. Overall I really liked Cambodia and Battambang was the crucial part to make me fall in love with the country. I really would like to visit Battambang again and also go to Kep and to Kampot for which I didn’t have time this time. Cambodia, until we meet again ♥
PS: I hate mosquitoes!!!!!
PPS: Has anyone ever heard about a Ganzberg beer??