I think there is something magical about Battambang because we had another incredible night's sleep! We may have slept later than any other time of this trip, almost six thirty when we finally got up. After rubbing the sleep out of our eyes we joined Brian and Nicole for breakfast before they left for Siem Reap. While we were waiting for our food Francene joined us as well. Apparently we all got a really good nights' sleep.
After eating all returned to our respective rooms to get ready for the day. About forty five minutes later Francene, Araceli, and I rejoined and went about finding transportation to Kamping Puoy, a large lake about forty minutes from Battambang. There is a large dam that was hand built under the Khmer Rouge and used to control irrigation water for the surrounding farms. It is said that nearly all the people who worked on the massive construction died in the process.
Today Kamping Puoy is dotted with giant lotuses and serves as a recreational site for many Cambodians. They come on the weekends to grab a meal from one of the many vendors and wait the sun set over the lake on a covered platform built up from the lake shore. Part of me wishes we could have made it back for sunset, I am sure it would have been spectacular but because of our somewhat limited information about the place it just wasn't in the cards.
One of the reasons we went to Kamping Puoy was to try to find where they cultivate the giant lotuses for use in making fibers for weaving but the language barrier and lack out foreign tourists conspired against us. But we aren't ones to dwell on disappointment and we found a few kids riding their bikes in the shallow water under the dam having a great time. There is a really attractive little community around the lake that makes a living by fishing and catering to the Cambodian weekenders. It was really quite charming.
On the way back from Kamping Puoy we stopped at Wat Phnom Sampeau. At the top of a limestone formation overlooking the valley below Wat Phnom Sampeau is in some disrepair. There are broken pieces of statuary litters throughout the grounds, some figures are missing heads, and much of the temple complex is in the process of being repainted. Despite this it is a really great old temple and survives because the military leader in the area during the Khmer Rouge refused to follow orders to destroy the religious sites in the area under his authority. There were only a few other visitors while we were there if you don't count the macaques that roam the mountain stealing what they can from unwary visitors.
Below the temple are the killing caves. There is a steep staircase that descends into a cavern where you will find a reclining Buddha. Next to it is the memorial for the people who were beaten and thrown through the skylight high above and allowed to fall to their deaths within the cavern under the Khmer Rouge. As at the Killing Fields, the memorial is filled in the skeletal remains of the victims. Today it is a site of pilgrimage and many memorials above the caves are surrounded by placards bearing the names of those people who have made generous donations to preserve and restore the area.
Sufficiently hot and depressed we made our way back into the city for lunch. It was another gorging session and after we all needed a little rest and time to digest back at the hotel. So we caught up on world news, went for a swim, chatted, and relaxed for a couple of hours
One of the reasons we came to Battambang is for the colonial architecture but so far we had little opportunity to actually walk around and appreciate it so I convinced Francene and Araceli that we should go to Psar Nat and wander from there until we were ready for dinner. Psar Nat is also known as the Meeting Market and it is housed in two long impressive tiered art deco buildings. Where the two buildings meet there are a number of food stalls and at the west end it was still bustling with people buying their groceries.
We waded through the press of people and I did note that there were very few tourists. It's not that I have ever felt overwhelmed by tourists in Battambang but it is clear that this is not yet a travel destination. In another decade I am sure it will be much different because it is a really pretty and rather quiet city.
After escaping the crowd we wandered. I stopped a number of times to take pictures of architecture and interesting doors and windows. You could compile a great book of doors and windows in this city. As we walked the sun sank lower and lower and soon it had set. While we had a big lunch and rather late in the day we decided to get some dinner early so we could call it an early night.
In our wanderings we saw advertisement for an Indian restaurant and I looked it up online during our siesta so we meandered over and sat down for a nice meal. The three of us split and appetizer of samosas, a bowl of lentils, and some paneer naan. It wasn't a huge amount of food but by the end all of us will filled to or beyond capacity. We were then faced with the choice of calling a tuk tuk or walking back to our hotel. The walk would have been the same distance as our walk last night so we decided that it might be a good thing to help our food digest.
Sadly the setting of the sun does not mean that the heat abates and by the time we returned to our rooms we were all sweaty though some more than others. So it was time for a quick shower and an early night. Tomorrow Araceli and I head for Siem Reap to meet up with Brian and Nicole and Francene heads back to Phnom Penh.
Canon 1D X, Canon 24-70/f2.8L Mark II
70mm, f4, 1/125 sec @ 500 ISO