Today was our chance to have a bit of a look around Battambang proper or Bat-Dam-Bong as the locals seemed to call it. We were expecting it to be a long walk around the town with the river at the centre of it. From the hotel we had to cross the busy square we had espied from our balcony last night but this was the daytime and we would be getting up close and personal, well personally dodging the traffic. It was no less frightening up close but once across we went to a cafe down 2.5 street, yes two and a half street – no idea how such a street pops up when you are planning a town but there it was. Possibly it was JK Rowling’s influence with the station taking people off to Hogwarts but though the cafe and its food were very nice, no magic was used in the serving of our foodstuffs – or so the disclaimer said!
After eating we decided to leave our fate to the local tourist guide, ’The Battambang Traveller’ to see whereabouts it would lead us. So we followed the route in the guide and went round the buildings illustrated in it. There are all sorts of general buildings to have a look at in Battambang, some are in better repair than others but most are okay to have a mooch around if not for any extended length of time. The route wound us through the busy town, past the school and then took us to Wat Damrey Sor which was quite a dishevelled looking building but was surrounded by smaller statues of elephants and the like. Although the Wat itself was not in a great state of repair on the underside of the roof the paintings were both colourful and beautiful, the imagery really vivid. As we wandered about the place we happened across a couple of dogs stuck somewhat painfully in the throes of passion. This quite disturbed Liz as there was no telling how long they had been stuck in that position so it was time to leave and move on.
We finished off the tour on this side of the river by heading towards Battambang’s Department of Tourism along the way having a look over the Governor’s Office. The office of tourism was not shut but nobody was at home and the Governor’s Office was a nice looking building but it too, was not open to the public as we passed so we just carried on walking. Undeterred we carried on and saw a couple of interesting looking buildings on the other side of the Sangkae river so we crossed over using the nearby New Bridge.
The buildings turned out to be the Wats Sangker and Pachaa and neither looked particularly busy or open with just the odd monk milling around in them but both were reasonably nice to have a look around and take a few photos of but neither of us considered this to be entertainment so we went back over the bridge, to try and book a boat tour which turned out to not be running today. So the only thing left for us was to hire a couple of the hotel’s bikes and brave the whirling traffic for a ride out into the countryside to try and catch some ‘Hello Misters’ off the passing children as this never fails to raise one’s spirits.
Despite the crazy traffic flying at us from all directions we managed to get quite a way out of the town without being involved in a traffic accident hoorah. To be fair, the countryside never seems that far from the town centre even though it is a fair old size of place. Once outside the town centre everyone seems to want to wave or at least give you a smile even if they seem a bit sheepish about doing it so this was great. There were also a few really nice wats that we had a quick ride around as well as some stalls where they were drying fish and other such foodstuffs. On the ride back at one point we even had a bit of a race with some kids who were on their way home after school but they did not beat us by much and all of us ended up laughing! It was quite a trek out but we had had a great time, I could do this type of bike ride anytime.
After we had returned the bikes we had a bit of a sleep before going out to a restaurant round the corner (near Street Two and a Half) called Jaan Bali which we had seen advertised in the local press. The eatery seemed a bit pricier than we were used to paying but the smells in the place were simply so delicious that we had to stay and try some food. From the menu, I picked the twice cooked beef and Liz had the sticky chicken broth and both dishes really were world class. The restaurant looked smart inside but other than that it really gave no other clues of the standard of cooking taking place there. There were a couple of young ladies who arrived and, like us were unsure about staying to eat as it was expensive compared to other Cambodian eateries but we explained just how good the food was and soon enough they were using their own superlatives to describe their own meals. It turned out they were away on break from University, one was taking Literature and the other Chemistry and they were not only very bright but both were also very nice to talk to. We dare not stay out too late though as tomorrow we needed to be up early for a guided tour of the sights around and about Battambang.