Battambang, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea…

After travelling for nearly 8 months, mostly in Asia, a few things are irritating me and by the time I got to Battambang I found myself really fed up and facing a dilemma: was it perhaps time to end this trip or better to take a deep breath and accept that my expectations did not necessarily have to be met. I think the latter is in fact the challenge, to move past the irritation. Flight or fight? For a change I am not going to fly and will try to learn to find ways of dealing with it. Were it not for the fact I am going to see my children for a few days at the beginning of April in China and that I do want to see the cherry blossom in Japan, I would be now planning my departure from Asia. So maybe the timing is happening for a reason, I have learnt the universe tends to put things your way when you need them. Perhaps I have to learn patience and acceptance.

Banan Temple, Battambang, Cambodia

Banan Temple, Battambang, Cambodia

Battambang is in fact, a rather nice, unassuming town, a welcome relief from touristy Siem Reap and I would encourage anyone to visit it. Phnom Sampov is quite something. A cave were millions of bats come out at dusk for their night time feeding in orderly fashion, exiting the cave’s mouth a few at a time, how do they know it is their turn? An undulated, sinuous wave of black bats flying rhythmically as far the eye could see.  The ruins of Banan temple amongst the flowers has a charm which is more special by the fact you walk up 357 steps to get there. That is about 14 floors…I was dropping some papers for the Spanish bishop on behalf of a friend at the only catholic church in Battambang but sadly he was away and there were no Jesuits about to show me round as I would have loved to have seen the work they do there. As pleasant as the town was, a few things had been building up for weeks and I had had it.

Banan Temple, Battambang, Cambodia

Banan Temple, Battambang, Cambodia

I just do not understand how and why but whenever I ask a local anything I am met with two answers or reactions, it is either yes or blank face…what time does the bus leave…yes…do I turn left or right for the museum…yes…please hotel receptionist show me on the map you just provided me with where the tourist information office is…blank…where any of these six restaurants are…blank…the name of this big  road…blank… where this very hotel  is…blank…maybe the hotel manager might know…sorry, he is sleeping (it’s 1pm)…

The center of Battambang consists of three main roads conveniently called street 1,2 and 3 and then about 8 smaller roads that run perpendicularly to those 3. To do a circuit of the outer perimeter takes about 45 minutes, I know because I have done it. How can you, hotel receptionist not know the name of any of those roads or where the restaurants are located…how can you not know where the hotel where you work every day is on the town map. It is exasperating. And by now I have had months of this and it is getting to me.

Bats at Dusk, Battambang, Cambodia

Bats at Dusk, Battambang, Cambodia

It is equally frustrating to find shop owners or hotel staff slurping on their noodles at the front desk or taking a nap in one of the lobby’s sofas or shop floor. I know, I am not staying in super fancy hotels but neither are they the cheapest. I am tired of encountering this devil may care attitude. For crying out loud show some pride in what you are doing…

But worst of all is having to negotiate for everything and staying alert so I don’t get done in. Even the hotels do this, not for the price  of the room but for everything else they offer. They will say they have no clue and will not help you find one, when you ask for a proper taxi if they only have tuk tuks outside. They want to help their friends. And everyone else is in it too. If you talk to a waiter about going to x he will say you need a tuk tuk because it is very far and wave to the guy, clearly his friend, who is just waiting there. When you get to x you discover that it is only a 10 minute walk but it doesn’t matter, the driver got his fare… You can not let your guard down and it is exhausting.

I long to be somewhere where I can communicate and I can be understood. And where nobody will try to scam me. Where there is a fixed price for things and where I do not have to tiptoe around rubbish and rubble or get whiffs of sewage. And where children are in school as they should be, instead of working. Deep breath…deep breath…this is good for me at some level…

12 thoughts on “Battambang, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea…

  1. Silvia,
    Muchos ánimos desde Barcelona. A pesar de todos los pesares has aprendido un montón y esto no te lo quita nadie!!
    Un abrazo,

  2. I fully understand your frustating feelings. Specially when it comes to filling the gaps between expectations and reallity…., it is not an easy one. One can think that expectations are just dreams, not based in any evidence, facts, …..but it is usually not the case. Many expectations have to do with images that were facts but that we interprete in our own way! Yes, I do fully understand you Silvia! Keep up!!!

  3. No sabes como te entiendo!!!!!! Siempre alerta! Pero en eso consiste la aventura. Aqui yo me se todo conozco todo no estoy en tension por lo que no VIVO. Me deslizo solo por el tiempo, sin sobresaltos sin pasiones sin peligros! Es cansado si, pero vale la pena!!!
    Me lo pase muy bien en londres, el otro polo de donde tu estas. Solecito carisimo y mucho lujo. Se me hizo raro no verte
    Un beso

  4. Silvia, I’m thinking it takes a special person to travel in all the countries you have been and headed for…thinking of all you’ve endured so far and how you take it all in and keep going…very admirable…I know for a fact I would NOT be a happy camper having experienced some of what you have the past 8 months….you my friend ARE that special person!!!!

  5. Bella, it seems to me you are both being tested and also perhaps needlessly putting yourself in discomfort, because of an original plan or outline about seeing X much of Asia, etc – or perhaps just hanging in there for the kids in April…can’t you get away to somewhere more congenial – God knows where? I think your trip is meant to be joyful so make new choices if it is not?! Anyway when you get to America you’ll have more customer care than you ever wanted in your life, to the point of nausea! And of course, a sort of English is spoken there…
    Miss you! Exx

    • I think there was bound to be a point where I’d be totally fed up. Feel much better now. Turned a corner and having a most wonderful, chilled time in Luang Prabang. Impeccable pavements, clean and delicious food!

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