Something went quite wrong for a little while. I was permitted to stay in my room in Phnom Penh with the great view of the river front but only for an extra day so rather then make do in a not so great a room for the rest of the Water Festival I jumped on a bus to Battambang. The bus ride was no great journey, maybe six hours, and at the bus station at my destination there was a tuk tuk driver with my name on a sign. This was something of a surprise as I had not booked a ride, but a pleasant one nonetheless, and I was happy to be transferred to the hotel for the princely sum of two dollars. My room was pleasant with a small shaded terrace in front but this is where things went slightly awry. I had a huge attack of lethargy. Just the thought of buying another ticket, waiting around for another bus, finding another hotel became overwhelming. I think I had what they call ‘hit the wall’. I was really quite miserable for a couple of days and was just a little concerned that maybe I was getting sick, malaria crossed my mind. The hotel was set a little ways out of town and I couldn’t even get up the get up and go to find a tuk tuk to chug the short distance to downtown. I have actually read that solo travelers get afflicted in this way after a while alone, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember the solution. Clearly this could not go on, so I texted my symptoms back to the family in far away San Anselmo and back came the solution, change hotels. Of course, palm to forehead. I moved. To a small villa run by a French couple from Paris, they have only owned it for six weeks and have a one year old and a four year old, Max, who goes to a Montessori School here in Battambang.
Well, Montessori is not unknown to me (!), we chatted, they immediately organized a tuk tuk tour of the town for me and insisted I join their family that evening for a trip to the circus. Lethargy fled away. Off around the sleepy town in the tuk tuk I saw many interesting things, one of which was a statue made entirely of melted down AK 47s (guns) created after the madness, it was really quite moving. Another was the enormous statue of the town’s founder (Ta Dumbong) with his stick. Battambang means “town of the lost stick”. It’s a great story but not worth going into here in any detail, just search for Battambang, lost stick and all will be revealed. I found some great restaurants, ate Western food a couple of times, walked the market, ambled through the streets admiring the colonial French architecture and generally threw off my funk.
Those in touch using Social Media will have seen me on the bamboo train, very funny in the pouring rain. This train, if it can be called a train, was created by the French and partially resurrected after being destroyed by the mad men. The little carriages (norrie or norry) are basically bamboo poles, strung together, making a bed, powered by two stroke engines, very loud, they can achieve speeds of 30 MPH, they seat four and are a big tourist attraction. I remarked to my tuk tuk driver that the clouds were looking a bit black, oh no, says he, it will not rain. We arrived at the station, a collection of shacks, and had to shelter as there was a shower. Climbing aboard we made our way down the track, the rain increased, a late monsoon, I got soaked and was on the verge of a sense of humor failure when we arrived at the turnaround. Dashing into a shack we found hats, ponchos, water for sale and everybody smiled.
Off in the morning on the 7am boat, down the river, across the Tonle Sap Lake to Siem Reap. More tales of Angkor ahead.