This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution in the 2006 journey, click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Announcing Phase 2 of the Journey

This is the beginning of the second phase of our Intrepid Circuit of Asia in 90 days
In the New Year of 2011 we will continue our journey through Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Christine and Chris

Monday, December 20, 2010

Battambang to the Thai Border

Battambang by the river

Battambang proved to be a dusty but interesting and rather far out town from the tourist routes. It is the second city in Cambodia, although it is small by comparison with Phnom Penh, with a lot of neglected French colonial charm - a little like the Cambodian Luang Prabang.

We were escorted in a minivan from the rivers edge around 11 kms out of town because the river was too high for the boats to get under the bridges of Battambang and ended up in an okay central hotel - at least for a night's stay.

We spent a day walking around town, looking at the temple and river side and dining on vegetable omelets and mini-baguettes at the White Rose Restaurant. For the bus journey to the border see later ...

A panorama of the main promenade by the river

Omelet and baguettes at the White Rose Restaurant

The local temple in Battambang

Four up on motor bikes

The back streets

The central markets

A blind beggar

A monkey band in the market

Half-minute video clip of the monkey band

We had come to Battambang to catch the bus on to Thailand, so we booked a ticket on a through bus with the hotel, somewhat apprehensive after dire stories of the scam through buses between Bangkok and Siem Reap. As things turned out, we were escorted in the hotel minibus in the morning out to a bus station on the outskirts, where we had to wait a while for a local bus. This proved okay, after some arguing to get them to secure the luggage lockers under the bus, which were flapping wide open and threatening to dump our luggage on the road.

The road through to Poipet was one of the roughest we have traveled on confirming the bad tales of airline scams stopping this highway being upgraded. The border was hot and dusty and we had to keep our wits about us to keep any contact with the guy who was supposed to be linking us to the Thai bus on the other side.

Finally after we got through Thai customs, we had to walk over to a bus stop and wait. The shop owner there warned us not to leave our belongings on this bus, and sure enough everyone had their luggage robbed of selected items on the way to Bangkok, by the bus drivers tout in a calculated scam, a saga we will relate in full in the Thailand postings.

Waiting at the 'big' bus station

Passing a truckload of workers

The Cambodian side of the border

Looking through to the Thai side

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Azure Vistas of Tonle Sap

Chong Kneas as the boat departed

After visiting Angkor (in the last posting), we decided to cross Tonle Sap to Battambang, rather than try to negotiate the flooded route from Siem Reap to the border, as we had heard horrific stories of people coming into town exposed in half sunken lorries, scorched in the sun, with their belongings drenched by flood waters, while tractors had to be used to pull them out of deep underwater 'pot' holes.

So we booked a place on the boat at one of the agencies in the main street and we duly ferried down to the terminal back at Chong Kneas beside the floating village we had visited the afternoon before.

After waiting half an hour for the boat to fill up and depart, we set off on one of the most fascinating and unexpected journeys of our entire trip, passing through the wetland shallows, out onto the lake and up tortuous wetland, river and canal routes on the other side, passing through a succession of extraordinary floating towns and villages which we would have never known existed.

Google map of Tonle Sap indicating the journey we will take

Video of our Crossing of Tonle Sap

Tonle Sap is the gall bladder of the Mekong. In the flooded monsoon season it fills as the river draining it into the Mekong reverses direction and it swells to fill the whole interior of Cambodia with flood lands.

So here, with as many images as possible packed in, because it is such an unusual trip, is a photo essay of the journey from Siem Reap to Battambang across Tonle Sap in the flood season as we made it in October 2006.

Images of the outer floating arm of Chong Kneas which we visited
in the previous posting as we pass it going out of the harbor

Heading out of the harbor

The boat stopped briefly at the harbour entrance

Looking back at the harbour

The boat enters a region of floating vegetation in the shallows

The channel the boats can pass through is marked by white rags

Coming to the open water in the distant cleft

Entering Tonle Sap proper

The lake is now so big one can't even see the land on the horizon

Chris and Christine crossing the open lake

The boat and its passengers

A chain of boats carrying firewood

The boat crosses the northern arm of Tonle Sap and re-enters the shallows

Approaching the first town in the distance

Images from the first town, whose houses are all floating just like Chong Kneas

The town has a large hall and a temple, both on tall piles

Approaching the temple

The boat stops to drop off parcels and passengers

The temple and a ceremonial boat

Shoppers crossing the harbor

We then head up the river to a second floating town

The odd large building is on tall piles but the rest are floating

The houses are varying from simple reed shacks ...

... to some quite dainty cottages with ornamented verandas

A floating village store seemingly supported only by bamboo logs

The wilderness is full of pelicans, white herons, small wetland bird and hawks

We come to a third floating village

A floating first-aid centre

Bamboo cranes for holding fishing nets line parts of the river bank
but in seeming disuse. Only one we saw actually had a net.

We approach a fourth floating town in the distance

Again this has a temple complex opposite it on tall piles

Floating villages and settlements continue as we pass up the river

We pass major communications stations all in the midst of the water

We stop for refreshments at this floating store and cafe

The lady cut us delicious pineapple but then poured local water all over it
so we had to clean it again with a little of our bottled water

There is a pig pen in the floating back yard

We then entered a narrow canal through the water weeds

A convoy of boats struggling past us in the shallows

At one point the boat became lost and stranded in the water hyacinth
trying to follow the white rags which indicated the channel through the shallows

The land then opened out into wetlands
to one side of the river with a narrow canal

We passed several more convoys of boats

There were more floating villages these ones for boat workmen

A laden boat of woven baskets

The small floating villages here were looking poverty stricken and destitute

although those that had sound boats sported TV antennae

Finally we reached the river course again

Brahmin cattle holdings lined the banks

At this point the river became full of people set net fishing.
Several of the women appeared to be wearing Muslim veils

There was an endless sea of fisher-folk - seemingly
far too many to have a good chance of a catch

Alongside the river embankments many areas were still flooded

At this point we pulled into the shore at a primitive pier some 11 kms out of Battambang, because they claimed the river was too high for us to pass under the bridges. We were loaded into minivans and shepherded into town by the hotel touts.

Parked at the wharf waiting for the minibus