Our boat ride to Battambang
19.12.2008 - 21.12.2008 28 °C
In the centre of Cambodia lies the Tonle Sap lake which is the largest freshwater lake in South-East Asia. It stretches from Siem Reap in the very North and flows into the Tonle Sap river, joining the Mekong River in Phnom Penh in the south.
From Siem Reap you have two ways in getting to Battambang in the North-West of Cambodia; by road or the Tonle Sap lake. We opted for the boat ride as it's promoted as the most scenic boat journey in all of Cambodia and we'd experienced enough bus journeys to last us a lifetime.
Like any form of transport in SE Asia, they crammed the boat full of tourists so it barely floated above the water. At first the boat spluttered along at a snails pace which made us think we'd be lucky to arrive in Battambang before nightfall. Somehow we picked up speed and in no time we were cruising along the narrow waterways and wetland.
The Tonle Sap lake slowly came into sight as we came into the open. We could hardly make out where the horizon met with the water. The lake is so vast and made us feel so small in its entirity.
After an hour we started to veer to what we thought was the lakes edge but instead the boat entered more intricute water channels. Some were so narrow that everyone had to lean towards the middle of the boat to avoid being whipped by the branches and reeds as by now we were screaming through the water.
This journey is adventurous and certainly scenic. The highlight of the ride was when we returned to the lake and came across the most colourful floating villages. We'd never seen anything like it before in our lives. The entire town floated on water...schools, churches, shops and houses are all built on wooden rafts or stilts.
Motorbikes mean everything to the majority of Cambodians but for these local inhabitants, a dug out canoe is their lifeline. With such intrigue we watched men & woman go about their daily routine passing hundreds of children squealing out "hello" to us.
After 8 hours on water, we arrived in Battambang. Battambang is the second largest city in Cambodia and is a vital link connecting Thailand with Cambodia's capital city Phnom Penh.
The city itself isn't the most warmest of places however you still have to admire its old charm and clusters of old French shop houses along the riverbank.
We only had one full day here so we decided to spend it in the more scenic surrounding countryside. We each sat on the back of a motorbike and let our drivers take us through rice paddies and local villages on dusty tracks. We visited Phnom Sampeau (Ship Hill) & saw the killing caves once used by the Khmer Rouge. This was our first real learnings of the Khmer Rouge and our drivers had some sad stories as the Pol Pot regime happened within their lifetime.
View from Ship Hill
The Cambodian rural countryside is really beautiful and we loved the earthy colours.