1. After checking out of Eight Room in Siem Reap (May 14, Day 18), we gave the Pajero a good wash before heading for Sihanoukville, the port and resort town along the Southern coast of Cambodia. We had decided to take a longer route (Northwards along Highway 6, then to 5 and 4) to Sihanoukville by looping North of Tonle Sap to Battambong in order to see more of Cambodia. As a result, the total distance to Sihanoukville was some 650 km away, much longer than if we had backtrack South along Highway 6 towards Phnom Penh instead.
2. Quality of Highway 6 and 5 was good and we made it in time for lunch at Battambong where I had a bowl of fish porridge, very similar to what Li Hoon would typically cook for me at home. There we met a Singaporean couple who was looking over our car parked near the coffee shop, very surprised to see a Singapore registered car in a less trodden town of Battambong. They were Peter (Phua) and Magdalene who were in Cambodia for a 3 week vacation. They just came from the South and took some wonderful pictures of Bokor National Park near Kampot.
3. Battambong is the 2nd largest city in Cambodia; somewhat run down but the old world charm of a riverside town was evident. After lunch, we walked around the city centre to see some of the charming buildings that were probably built during the French era.
Had a cup of coffee in one of the beautiful corner shops before we left Battambong and proceeded South along Highway 5.
4. As it was starting to get dark, we decided to break the journey and spent a night at Kompang Chhnang, a riverside town along a tributary that flows into Tonle Sap. It is a small town, very few hotels or guest-houses as I would imagine few tourists would visit it. It was dark when we checked into one for US$13 a night. With some direction from the hotel staff, we drove a couple of kms to a very local restaurant. Staff there were particularly excited to see foreigners coming to eat at their restaurant. There was also a group of 5 rowdy but very friendly locals who had just returned from a holiday break at Poypet at the Cambodia/Thai border. They helped us order our food, as none of the staff could speak English and asked that we contact them should there be future car rallies that they can join.
5. Next morning, we decided to wake up early to visit a morning market along the river side. It was one of the most memorable and colourful experiences of my trip so far; completely unexpected as we had never intended to break journey at Kg Chhnang. At 6+, the street was already full of life (we called it the Orchard Rd of Chhnang), as it was already not easy to cross the street at this early hour. Stalls lined up both sides of the street, selling all kinds of things; vegetables, meat, cloths, hats, electronic goods, cane furnitures, etc etc. What the town people need are all here.
The rattan shop on the right reminded me of the
shop that my father used to work in along Boat Quay in Singapore.
6. Whats most interesting is this crossroad of Kg Chhnang, an embankment (can see in the pix on the right) that split the water into 2 levels. With water flowing slowly down and the bottom of the embankment made of stones, it was the centre of activities there. Here we saw cars, motorcyles and bicycles crossing from one side of the river to the other, fishermen throwing their nets to catch fish, a number of them washing their motorcyles, a lady washing clothes, including someone brushing his teeth and washing his underwear. We now have a better appreciation why early civilisations always begin along rivers.
You can click on the video to see more.
7. We ended the visit to the market with a noodle soup for breakfast.
8. After breakfast and a short walk along the waterfront, we promptly checked out of the hotel to continue our journey to Sihanoukville, which was still some 250 km away. Along Highway 4, which is a very good road, he stopped to buy some rambutans, and here you can see Sunny displacing the sales girl. Further on, a contingent of cows (never seen so many cows before) were marching from one point to another and crossing Highway 4 completely oblivious to our presence nearby. Want to see the cows, click the video.
9. We arrived at Sihanoukville late afternoon and after some recce checked into Beach Club Resort for US$40 a night; a very relaxed setting with the pool in the middle, deck chairs for sun tanning and a bar nearby with a pool table. Hotel looked pretty full, with mostly Caucasian tourists.