Monday. We left the hotel at 8.00 for the 290km drive along national Route 5 to Battambang.
Our first stop was at Kampong Lung, a village of silversmiths, about 40 minutes drive from Phnom Phen. The kampong, which lies along the river bank,houses a number of family concerns each having up to three generations all involved.
From there we moved on to the Vipassana Dhura Buddhist Centre and the pagoda at Udong Mountain. According to our guide,Sam, there were 136 steps to the top but it certainly felt like double.
The Buddhist centre houses the mausoleum for one of the leaders who was shot in 2002 and also is the centre of learning for both monks and nuns of the faith. There was much climbing of steps and removing of hats and shoes along the way.
Next stop lunch at the Sovannphum hotel. The “restaurant” runs down one side and is inhabited by quite a number of sparrows or their ilk. The other rather basic omission is toilets, though they did open a bedroom for the ladies and there was an outside footplate loo for the gents.
The meal consisted of rice, mushrooms, a broccoli substitute and a couple of other vegetables I couldn’t pin down all in a very nice sauce of indeterminate composition, a fish and cabbage stew in a coconut sauce and sweet and sour chicken, (none of your battered balls here), what you saw was what you got, with green and red sweet peppers, onion etc. I washed mine down with a large Angkor beer whilst the others chose iced lemon tea.
Fresh pineapple, dragon fruit and lychees followed for dessert.
All things considered you couldn’t complain.
From here we moved on to the Pottery co-operative where clay pots are made in the traditional Cambodian way, not a wheel in sight all hand formed and fired in charcoal ovens.
Then back onto the road for the 2.5 hour drive to Battambang.
Our hotel here was the Stung Sangke. This is definitely not the standard of the Sunway. Had to send down to reception for a hair dryer and the bellboy appeared with an armful of Philips dryers still in their boxes. Having said this I find that there is free wi-fi.
We have a local resident in the form of a large chit chat who took up position on the en trance wall. At least this means there will be no mosquitoes!
Dinner was arranged for 7pm and our guide duly collected us and we were transported to “La Villa” about ten minutes from the hotel.
La Villa is a most unprepossessing looking place alongside the river, no apparent sign and a very dimly lit entrance through the garden. Nor does it give the impression of being anything special once one is inside. Although not noticeable at first there are also a number of tables on the patio to the rear.
The menu is fairly short having about five starters including French onion soup and spring rolls. We decided to split a salad and the spring rolls, following with a prawn soup (we didn’t know it was a soup until it arrived) and a beef fried rice. I know I complain about them putting carrots in Chinese menus at home; I had not realised that it is de rigueur in Asia!
See the next installment – The Bamboo train