Friday, 9 March 2012


Tuesday 6 March: It's the dry season and water levels are low so it's a grueling 9-hour boat trip ($19.5) to Battambang - it's like diving head-first into the pages of National Geographic magazine. Ousing rust-red weed topped waters, floating villages, stilt-houses, Chinese-style cantilever fishing nets, fish traps, smiling and waving families, never a dull moment.
Wednesday 7: The Norri (90th mode of transport) or Bamboo train ($8 for half-hour round trip)
is unique - a flat bamboo bogie with detachable wheels driven by a rubber fan-belt from a small petrol engine, there's a mat to sit on - and that's it! They rattle along the narrow warped and twisted old French single-track line and when two meet head-on, the less heavily laden one is unloaded and dismantled so the other can pass. More like a fairground ride than a train journey, it scares me stiff, but what a great way to take advantage of an obsolete railway line. To get there cycle south along the east bank of the Sangker river and, after crossing a wide main road that bridges the river, turn left along a little road through a temple compound, continue straight on until you cross over the railway tracks, turn immediately right and you're there.
Toll Royal Railways are planning to reopen Cambodia's railway network with a view to operating passenger services and are already refurbishing the old French railway bridge over the river. Hopefully this will not lead to the demise of the Bamboo trains. Cycling across the freshly painted bridge, I continue 10km or so further south along the west riverbank towards to reach Prasat Phnom Banon Winery, Cambodia's only wine producer. The Banon Shiraz is better than the brandy, but could be improved by time or the addition of ice-cubes
- you could breath fire or thin paint with the brandy.
Royal Hotel - large clean en-suite ($7) with TV, fridge, free wifi and an inside courtyard window.

Photos of Battambang now and a rainy Battambang in July 2010.

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