Posts Categorized: Cambodia

Hotel etiquette Battambang style

I’m not sure whether or not I’m meant to feel reassured or frightened in a country where hotels feel the need to remind me than guns and grenades are not wecome. At Hotel La Noria in Siem Reap I think I was safe. With its leafy garden and swimming pool it is a comfortable escape from the bustle on the street at a cost of $40 plus a night. It is also reassuring that being a Childsafe hotel – one that does not allow the sexual exploitation of children –  the whining and screaming I could hear from behind closed doors had more to do with scrape knees and tummy aches than burglary. To say that weapons are tolerated at the Chayva hotel in Battambang is an understatement. All you have to do is declare them, along with your personal details, at check-in to this $5 a night joint. To save my blushes I smuggled a penknife in. The sheets were grubby and insects fell out of the ceiling onto the grubby sheets of our bed and to be quite honest it wasn’t worth it. Apart from a string of charming French terraces along the river, a couple of Wats and a cooking school there isn’t too much to Battambang. It’s more of a chill out zone, stopover after the river journey from Siem Reap and a gateway to intrepid travelers who want to discover the real Cambodia. Worth a visit is the Riverside Balcony Bar, a traditional style two storey wooden house overlooking the Stung Sangker (river). Apparently Angelina Jolie (I’d imagine without her brace of Dessert Eagles) visited here. It overlooks local allotments. We hogged a daybed and enjoyed a couple of drinks and copped-out by ordering omelette and chips. Travel Tip: Outside our hotel we were offered $4 trips to the bus station, which seemed a little pricy considering it’s less than 1km away. Instead we bought tickets from the booth in the market (marked 34 in the Lonely Planet guide). At 6.30am we rocked up there as arranged, and free of charge two motorcycles ferried us to the bus station. Jak left behind the bottled water she bought. The stallholder brought the water to the bus station and also gave us a bag of sweets. I was quite taken with the stinky, slightly vomity durian chews.

Tasty snacks at the “rest stop”

Deep fried and served out by the recycled condensed milk tin on the road-side, who can resist these tasy crickets and beetles? Well, about 30 people judging by our bus load of mainly locals. There was one chap though who tucked into a big bag of beetles, the secret being that you flick off the hard unedible wings before popping the bodies into your mouth. I’m afraid I was a wimp having poisoned myself two days earlier and was drawn again to the delicious rice-stuffed bamboo below. At another stop I picked-up excellent and cheap – about 50 cents each – steamed dumplings stuffed with onions, egg and herbs. I bought a barbequed banana leaf that was tied like a christmas cracker. As I opened it I was excited by the the crispy caramalised rice but then was worried about the flesh inside. It looked like it was also filled with pink and uncooked flesh at first. Looking closer it seemed like it was offal. But no, it was a single pink banana. I guess the banana and the sticky rice had been steamed first then barbequed for the caraalised effect. I savoured the taste all afternoon and evening. At the meal stops I was struck how elegant the local woman are at weeing in public. Simultaneously, a woman would crouch while lifting her sarong as elegantly as a stork lifts its wings (really I was trying not to watch too closely but there were a lot of them). The sarong provided the perfect privé (assuming you are not wearing knickers) as long as you don’t mind being seen by everybody passing on the road. Men, to avoid the smelly loos, do it the expected way (as I did) near or against a smelly tree.