After our exciting bamboo train ride, we returned to Battambang. Dave and the guide decided to take us to the central market. I told Dave that we would like time to wander on our own. So we decided to meet up in an hour. It was great to be by ourselves and meander where we wanted to. We headed to the food area. It was always the most interesting section with all kinds of weird fruit and strange seafood. I love the markets as you can learn so much about the people when you go there. It was rather claustrophobic as it was around noon when a lot of people shop. I think Shawn was a bit nervous taking photos but I found for the most part that the people were friendly and enjoyed having their photos taken. Here are a few photos of the market goods and people.
We met Dave and the guide an hour later. We were starting to wilt and anxious to get back to the hotel for lunch and a rest. We sat down for lunch and were the only ones there. They had indoor seating and outdoor. Shawn and I opted for inside as we could sit under a fan and not be bothered by the flies. I remember one time I ordered fish and chips and the breading on the fish was so thick – it just fell off. I ate the fish, but not the breading. The breakfast was by menu and not many choices. I started just having ginger tea and toast so I wouldn’t have any stomach issues. I told Dave to delay the afternoon excursion until 2pm and I think he was happy to do that.
By 2pm we had rested and were ready to explore the countryside and see the local industries in action. After leaving Battambang, we drove out into the countryside. We stopped at a home that made rice paper for spring rolls. There were two ladies working there One was sitting at a pottery-like wheel. She had flour and water that was spinning and she would dip the bottom of a small bowl into the flour substance and get a round transparent-like rice paper shape. She then put it on a grid that was heated and when it was crisp – she took it off. The heat for the rice paper was produced by rice husks. It was fascinating and she was very skilled making the rice paper.
When we were finished watching her, we went across the road to the cousin’s house. The guide, Mr.Tiens, wanted us to taste a fresh fried and raw spring roll. I didn’t realize you could fry the rice paper spring rolls. It was interesting watching her put the vegetables together and wrapping it up in the rice paper. We each ate a fried and raw spring roll. I thought they were good but was wary about eating the raw vegetables.
Our next stop was the fish paste making plant. Dave said that the smell was really horrendous and that several people he brought couldn’t take it and had to leave. Fish paste is usually made of crushed, salted and fermented mud fish. Prahok (Cambodian name) originated as a way of preserving fish during the longer months when fresh fish was not available in abundant supply. Because of its saltiness and strong flavor, it was used as an addition to many meals, such as soups. Prahok has a strong and distinct smell, earning the nickname “Cambodian Cheese”. Prahok is usually eaten with rice in the countryside or poorer regions. I took a few photos but they were pretty gruesome. There were bunch of people in a room with just a few overhead fans, pounding and smashing fish. The smell was excruciating so we didn’t stay too long. Outside, you could see tons of fish drying in the sun. Down the way, I saw a woman with her grandchild working in another building. Not sure what they were doing. It was common to see children with the working parents or grandparents.
We made a short visit to the memorial of the Khmer Rouge victims. It was hard to look at the memorial with its horrifying carvings of the tortures that the people were subjected to during the Khmer Rouge regime.
We traveled to our final local business to see rice noodles being made. The building for making the noodles was out in the open with the family home in the back. It was a family business with the grandfather still working.
Since we were already out in the country, the guide suggested taking us to see the fruit bats. We drove for about 20 minutes and at one point we were coming around a curve and a truck came barreling around the curve from the opposite direction but on our side of the road. We were lucky Dave was alert and able to pull over until the truck passed us. I guess that was the closest call we had to being in an accident. We drove along and the guide said we were going to see the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped and saw a long hanging suspension bridge.
We took a few photos and then kept on driving until we came to a temple. In the front of the temple was a tree with fruit bats hanging from it. I didn’t have my telephoto lens so the photos aren’t that great.
Well, it was a long day but we made it back to the hotel to enjoy “happy hour”. Shawn and I sat at the bar and ordered our drinks. Shawn was happy with his drink and I had red wine. We met the owner who was from Australia and also a guy from Spain. We just started talking to him when Dave sat down between us and interrupted our conversation. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone else because we had to listen to Dave talk about himself. We hadn’t eaten so said we were going to order and of course, Dave sat with us. I don’t even remember what we had to eat that evening. Dave talked on and on and on. Shawn said he was going to the room so I was left to be entertained by Dave for at least another half hour. Everything he talked about was a story. He had had a few beers so was especially talkative! I don’t think he asked us a single personal question about our lives the whole trip. I told him once that I had my Ipad and could show him some of my photography but he never asked to see them. By the end of the trip, we knew his whole life story as well as all of his friends’ life stories. I finally escaped to my room. We had to pack and get up early to leave for Kep which was about 10 hours away. We were looking forward to several days on our own!