Discovering another world on a Cambodian river - Siem Reap to Battambang by Boat
Siem Reap is a wonderful part of Cambodia to explore, not least for the incredible temples at Angkor Wat. After a week there however, it was time to move on. I had decided to head south to Cambodia's second city; Battambang. There were two ways to get there, 3 hours on an air-conditioned coach or 9 hours on a local river boat, slowly travelling along a tributary of the huge Tonle Sap Lake. Not much of a choice; it would have to be the boat!
Before we even reached the boat, there was some classic Cambodian caos. After waiting for what felt like hours by the side of a road, we were stuffed like sardines into a minibus two to a seat and driven for 40 minutes to the 'port'. The whole journey a hard frame of half a seat protruded painfully into my backside. Eventually, we were on the boat ready to leave and as I sat there, sore bottom, eyes drooping and dripping with sweat, it was hard not to think that I'd be nearly there if I'd taken the bus.
The boat departed and we trundled along the river. Soon we were in amongst floating villages, children waving from small wooden boats and communities living out their lives without touching dry land. It was quickly becoming clear that the discomfort would be more than worth it.
The fascination continued as we passed village after village, each one different from the last. Locals jumped on and off the boat at seemingly random points, fisherman sat patiently on the banks waiting to catch dinner for their families, while children rowed past on their way back from school. It was the hustle and bustle of daily life in Cambodia, set within the beautiful yet unlikely surroundings of a river. Skipping the comfort of that air-conditioned cocoon on wheels had allowed me to see a world that I could never have imagined existed.
It was yet another humbling experience and so much more than a means of getting from A to B. Often when travelling it's easy to want to get to places as quickly as possible in order not to miss out when you get there. But, sometimes the journey it self can be just as enriching as the place you are going.