Battambang is pronounced Battambong. The way the locals say it, it’s more like “butterball”, in fact. Amazingly, it’s the second-largest city in Cambodia. I say “amazing” as you can walk from end to end in around twenty minutes.
The bus trip was fairly uneventful – around five hours with one toilet break in a layby and a lunch stop roughly three hours into the journey. The aircon was on “chill” but at least that was keeping the mosquitoes in check.
I’d pre-booked a $4 room at the Chaaya Hotel and they’d even offered to send me a motorbike to take me there when I arrived. However, the bike wasn’t there. I waited a while then walked to the hotel… where I was told the cheapest room was $8. Then $6. Then $5. Sorry, I don’t “do” being screwed around by hotels so I walked out and tried one of the others recommended in Lonely Planet.
Royal Hotel could only go as low as $7, but their sister hotel around the corner – Hotel Asia – had one for $5. Yes, I know I could have got this from the first place but they’d promised and failed to deliver once, then tried to diddle me. Their loss.
After settling in, I decided to take a walk around the town. Which wouldn’t take long. I did a circuit taking in the five Wats (Damrey Sar, Kampheng, Sangker, Kandal and Phiphetaram), the Governor’s Residence and the riverside. I also passed an outdoor sports area that was teaming with volleyball players and spectators; and a bar filled to the rafters with screaming Cambodians gambling on the boxing.
The temples are in varous states, two of them definitely having some work done. They’re all similar in appearance with different decor – close to the Thai style which isn’t surprising given the proximity to the border.
For lunch I checked out the White Rose, as recommended by LP. he fruit shake I tried – banana and orange – certainly lived up to the press, but is 1000 riel more expensive now. Mind, the book is about 2-3 years out of date. No real faulting the rice, chicken and peppercorn either. Pretty tasty for $2.50.
While wandering, I checked one of the bus companies that Lonely Planet reckons does a direct bus to Bangkok for $10. They don’t any more. In fact, the chap there says that nobody does. The closest is one bus to Poipet and from there to the regular buses in Aranyaprathet. I was hoping to exit the country by the border near Pailin just so I could use a different chackpoint, but it’s looking more and more inconvenient.
I’ll check tomorrow on the time of the Poipet bus. Given the 4-hour journey from the border to Bangkok, I want to be setting off very early on Monday morning. I’ve been told by the hotel staff that there is indeed a direct bus to Bangkok, but it doesn’t leave until midday which would get me to the capital far too late to be of any use.
The third alternative is to head in one direction or the other using share taxis. And the issue there is cost and lack of regular services, plus the argie-bargie of haggling. Then there’s the fact that I have no Thai baht so I’m going to have to buy some – obviously at a bad rate – to ensure I can pay the bus fare.
All fun and games!
So I’m currently in my room with cold shower, western loo, two double beds and cable telly. Not bad for less than Â£4. Which is far less than Manchester City paid for Shay Given, who I am now watching debut for his new team.