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Sisophon, Cambodia

We wanted to see as much of the country as possible so after a few days headed to Battambang – Cambodia’s second largest city. Although developing fast, Battambang was quite rustic, we checked out the centre and booked ourselves onto a cookery course for the next day. Unfortunately, what we ate for lunch that day didn’t agree with us so we had a day knocked out of our plans – we postponed the cookery course!
We had recovered sufficiently the following day, so had a bit of tour with our tuk tuk driver (this time called David!) First stop was the peace monument, a giant sculpture made entirely out of old weapons found and handed in after the war.

Then it was to the bamboo train – this was something I had been really looking forward to. There are no passenger train services in Cambodia and although there is railway track, it is in really poor shape. In places the locals have devised an ingenious way to move people and goods around, very aptly named the bamboo train. It consists of two axles with wheels, these are the first to be lifted onto the rails, you then have kind of platform or chassis made of bamboo on which sits a small engine. The chassis is then put onto the wheels – no bolts or fastenings, it just sits there. A fan belt is then stretched from the axle onto the fly wheel of the engine and there you have it the bamboo train! We took a ride on this thing, hurtling down the track it was great fun although the odd stray cow on the line slowed down the ride. If there are any other bamboo trains either in the way or coming in the opposite direction, you simple stop, dismantle and reassemble – it takes about 3 minutes!!
We then went to an old (disused) Pepsi factory. During Khmer Rouge times, pretty much all factories were shut down, accordingly the last bottle to roll off the production line at this Pepsi factory was in the 70’s. Although we couldn’t physically get inside, we had a look around. It was quite eerie, through the windows you could see crates and crates of old bottles, even the Pepsi logo was still attached to the building outside, if slightly rusty. There are several other factories that were abandoned during that period around the same time, sadly they have not been used for anything since.

We toured a couple of other places – a village that is famous for making rice paper, another village that makes fish paste (very smelly!) It seems as though almost each village has its own speciality. It was a massive plus having a knowledgeable tuk tuk driver with us who spoke good English as he was able to explain things and where necessary translate for us.
The next day we had our cooking course at a place called Smoking Pot (of the cooking pot variety!) We met the owner, Vannack, who was our instructor for the day. First stop was the market, where we bought all the ingredients we needed. The butchers section kinda puts you off in a way, no fridges here to keep the meat chilled, its all out in the 40 degree heat! Vannack talked us through some of the more weird and wonderful vegetables and herbs. For example, there are 3 different and distinct types of basil in Cambodia. In addition to the normal purple aubergine’s we are used to seeing, there is also a much smaller green sweet version.

The course was well set up and Em and I each had our own gas wok burner, outside naturally!! It would be an understatement to say that it was hot cooking even though Vannack had set up a fan to cool us down while we cooked. The end results were quite pleasing, a traditional Khmer Amok curry, fresh spring rolls and a beef stir fry with spicy basil. Em likes spicy whilst I don’t but her stir fry was inedible due to the fact that she had put 5 chillies in it. I only put 3 in my version but it still blew your head off.
After our cooking course, we chatted with Vannack who had also just opened a new bar in town. He asked for our help to write a flyer for it. He then took us to the bar and wanted our opinion on some of the music he had – we spent two hours writing and rewriting drafts for his flyer whilst categorising his music collection!

The following day we went to another temple which involved a strenuous climb of 358 steps, still guess we needed some exercise after the cooking course the previous day. We also visited a local vineyard, I think the only one in Cambodia, and did a little bit of wine tasting. The vineyard produces 10,000 bottles each year and is distributed all over the country. That night we ate at Smoking Pot and couldn’t believe that the flyer for Vannak’s new bar had been printed and our suggestions for it had been used, word for word! There were even guys on the street handing these flyers out.
Its been quite tricky writing this entry for Battambang because we did so much there. Despite being ill, we managed to cram a lot into our stay, the above, is the condensed version!

permalink written by  Tim and Em on May 20, 2010 from Sisophon, Cambodia
from the travel blog: Round half the world!
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Battenberg sounds amazing!! Love all your new pictures, sounds like the people are v nice there. Hope you're enjoying Vietnam just as much!
Jealous!!!! x

permalink written by  Matt on June 28, 2010

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