(Tuesday) We woke up early and took a bus from Phnom Penh to Battambang. The ride went pretty fast even though it took about five hours. After lunch, we went to the countryside. The group rode on the bamboo train. It was a wooden platform on some tracks. There was nothing to hold on to and no sides. The train reminded me of an old wooden roller coaster like The American Eagle at Six Flags Great America. Although not required, I recommend keeping your hands and feet inside at all times. We rode on the train through the rice fields. At one point, we came across passengers riding in the opposite direction. They had to get off their cart, remove their platform and wheels, and wait for us to pass. I felt bad, and they were probably annoyed they had to do so for a bunch of travelers. The train took us to a brick factory. We saw the entire process of people making bricks. It was extremely tedious. They work all day for only a few dollars. After the train ride, we went to Smoking Pot for dinner. I had a delicious curry before heading to bed.
(Wednesday) Today was a great day. We started off with another motor tour. It was extremely interactive and fun. Our guide was absolutely hilarious. Our first stop included an old teak house. It was full of antiques and rustic charm. The old woman who lives there was so beautiful and welcoming. Our guide showed us old tools and important heirloom items. He also told us about a special happy soup that is common in Cambodia. It is made with marijuana and was actually on the menu at Smoking Pot last night, go figure. He said it is legal to grow plants for your family, but it is illegal to buy or sell the drug. It's an interesting concept. All ages smoke marijuana and enjoy happy chicken soup.
It was a cool day in the dusty town of Battambang. The roads were wet from evening rains and the sky was cloudy. We continued our motor tour to a rice paper factory. Just before we got there, Madeleine's motorbike had hit the ground. She was not badly injured and these accidents are quite common because people do not pay attention! The rice paper was also hard work that most people do as a second job. The work is repetitive and strenuous on the body.
On our way to the next stop, we detoured to a street vendor. Here we tried fried rats and Chinese frogs. The frogs were very small so we ate everything including the bones. The rat tasted like chicken. It was moist and pretty delicious. No; they were not like the street rats in Chicago (Rich).
We continued onward and saw rice noodles being made. Another hard job. The noodles are made fresh and only able to be sold within 24 hours. We were able to try some and watch the process. The mixture is placed into a jar and then strained into hot water. Then they scoop it all out and wash it through cold water. It was pretty interesting.
This led us to the snake farm. We were not able to try any snake because it's not the season. I was mildly disappointed since my pallet had been tested several times today already. At the farm, we were able to hold several types of snakes. After this we headed back to our hotel.
For dinner we all went to a chef's house. He is a friend of motor tour guide. He welcomed us into his home and set a table for all of us to eat. Him and his wife cooked us so much food. There was curry, amok, rice, vegetables, beef stir fries, etc. There was so much food that the table cloth was barely visible. We ate and then ate some more. He was so great and made us feel like part of the family. Before we had fresh fruit for dessert, some of us tried some rice wine. The first we tried was Cobra wine. This is made with the blood of the snake. It had quite the sting to it, but it was smooth. The next wine we tried was Tarantula wine. This is made with the poison. There were still tarantulas in the wine. We took some out to pass around, and since Isabel gets really queasy around spiders, she had to step outside. This wine burned more than the first. What an adventurous day for eating and drinking!
(Thursday)This morning we woke up and headed to the river. We took a boat from Battambang to Siem Reap. It took us just under eight hours to get there. I thought I would read a lot, but I had my headphones in the entire time. I couldn't help but look around and try to soak in everything I was seeing. It wasn't necessarily a pretty site. The houses were mostly shacks with old, soiled clothing for walls. Leading up the houses were plastic bags, waste, and other trash. There was so much trash I think every couple of houses could have filled a dumpster. I am curious about the waste disposal system here. I'm saddened by the idea of this trash washing into the river during rainy season. There are plenty of people bathing and washing clothes in the river. There are boys fishing and kids playing. We passed several floating villages including one with a floating MetaPhone store. Imagine that. A floating mobile store. I think I have seen it all!
The boat was fairly small, and we only had benches to sit on. The boat driver was hassling Hillary to use his tuk tuk drivers when we got to the port. She kept trying to tell him that we had our own transportation through the hotel. He ended up taking us to the wrong port on purpose and dropping us off about 30 minutes away from our destination. We waited in the sun for our transportation to arrive. There was hardly enough room for 14 people, 14 backpacks and 14 day packs. We crammed into one van and one tuk tuk. About 15 minutes into the ride another tuk tuk showed up. I noticed my cell phone was missing when we were close to Siem Reap. I only took my headphones out the last ten minutes of the boat ride so I could talk to Anna. She thought something was wrong because I had been so quiet all day. I was just zoned into my music and trying to pass the time. I left my cell phone on the boat on the first seat. We called the boat driver, but he said he did not find anything.
After we checked into our hotel, we all headed to Angkor Wat to watch the sunset. It was gorgeous. Angkor Wat is the largest religious temple in the world. The stone structures are across a moat that was handmade. I raced to get a good picture of the sunset. I was mesmerized by the artistic detail in the buildings. There were beautiful stone carvings, sculptures, columns, etc. The temple was crowded but the spacious layout was not overwhelming.
We headed back to the hotel after an hour or so. We went to Khmer Kitchen for dinner. I had a delicious coconut curry and white rice. Since lent has begun, I am on a vegan diet. That means no meat, no dairy and no fish. I can eat shellfish, but I've decided to go completely vegan. It's a bit hard in a country with such amazing food, but there are plenty of options to choose from still!
I have so many pictures, but they will have to wait to be posted because the internet connection is not that great on the island!