Rob and I felt okay to continue our journey with the help of mucho Imodium. After a short ride on a moto taxi, we were delivered to a bus stop a short walk from the hostel. Thank goodness there was a bakery across the street and we had time to kill because we hadn’t had a chance to get breakfast at the hostel. Based on trip advisor reviews, the journey would take about 9 hours (with limited bathroom access). We definitely needed to get breakfast in addition to the snacks we had packed.
Finally a mini bus appeared and we managed to get everyone and their luggage in clown car style. Halfway through loading, Rob and I were in the back row with two others. The lady managing the bus packing zeroed in on us and added another person. This set the tone for the day.
Getting off the bus at the boat pier, we were immediately assaulted by a horde of women trying to sell us drinks and snacks for the journey. We grabbed another bottle of water and went to claim seats on the boat.
There were a number of older tourists (it was pretty clear they didn’t know what type of day they had signed up for) on the boat and many of them of had staked out sizable bench spots with bench space for their bags. Continuing with the theme of the day, they kept packing tourists until some refused citing no space. The driver than kicked the locals out of the shaded seating area to fit more tourists on board.
Based on reviews, we decided to sit near the front away from the engine fumes and incessant racket. The benches were hard but we were prepared with our therm-a-rest pads. The one flaw in our seat choice became remarkably clear very quickly: the cross wind as we navigated the top section of Tonlé Sap (the biggest lake in Cambodia) dumped water into the only two windows not covered by curtains (necessary for the driver’s view). In minutes, Rob and I were drenched with the murky, fetid lake water (most of Cambodia’s freshwater seafood comes from here and after this, I didn’t want to touch any of it.). We packed up the pads and stood in the middle of the dry boat section until we turned into the wind and the deluge ceased. At this point, the trip became quite pleasant as we watched floating villages go by for a couple hours.
The villages were on anchored boats with some support buildings built on stilts nearby. We passed floating stores, a water treatment plant built by US Aid, a floating pool hall and many homes with TV antennas. There were also a number of crane like contraption used for net fishing. The large temples built up on stilts on the nearby dry land showed just how drastic the water level change is here: these buildings were more than 60 ft above the current water level.
Around 1pm, we pulled into a bathroom/lunch spot at a split in the river. Rob had some lunch, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch the food after I saw the raw human waste going to the river. It soon became clear that the boat trip was complete and we would be continuing by jeep. There were three jeeps waiting for the over 40 people and luggage from the boat.
This “road” was a really a rough track that is underwater for a good bit of the year. It wasn’t quite as adventurous as our off-roading in Utah but considering the load and that fact that I couldn’t see the road, it was pretty nerve-wracking going over some of the obstacles. At one point, we got out and walked around one ditch. At another stop, I was afraid the jeep had died – the driver kept jumping out to look at the engine. One of the jeeps did have mechanical issues but that was the one neither Rob nor I was on. It took over 2 hours to go 36 km. The Bonine I took in the morning paid off and I managed to survive all the jolting even snoozing for the last bit of the trip once we hit a smoother section of road. My jeep beat Rob’s by 20 min so it was a fun wait with all the tuk tuk drivers looking to be hired surrounding me. I didn’t even know the place we had booked since the Rob made the reservation.
When Rob’s jeep arrived, we found our tuk tuk and loaded up for our guesthouse. Our driver spoke great English and tried really hard to get us to hire him to visit the attractions around Battambang. He was preaching to the wrong choir. We just wanted to clean up and rest after the exhausting day. It was such a relief to wash off all the caked mud and lake water and curl up for a nap.