When faced with two choices- a three-hour bus ride or a 6-9 hour boat ride, which would you choose?
Last month my mum arrived for Christmas. The day after she landed we took the bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap. There’s only one bus that goes directly through, and it’s run by the Transport co. I can’t imagine having to wait for more transport in Poipet, as this town is known as “the toilet” for a reason.
We spent three days in Siem Reap exploring the temples, and celebrated my birthday with some pampering at my favorite spa before we decided to move on to Battambang.
While we knew we could take a relatively short bus trip, we decided to take the boat from Siem Reap to Battambang, as my mum wanted to see the “real Cambodia”.
We were picked up from the hotel at around 7.15 am (way too early) and the boat was supposed to leave at 8 am although by the time everyone was on the boat it was 8.40 am. There was no food on the boat but there were plenty of touts selling bread and cold drinks outside at a hefty mark-up. I had to laugh at my first view of the “4-star boat”.
Most of the people on the boat were locals, and as we jumped onboard there was a chicken squawking down the back. A woman walked down to sort it out, and with a final squawk it was ominously silent. Along the way we dropped the Khmer’s off at their houses, and picked more up at certain points.
The best part about taking the boat is watching the scenery. After the first hour I climbed up onto the top of the boat to enjoy the sun and fresh air, and gawk at my surroundings.
Like so many places in Cambodia, the poverty here is overwhelming. What makes it harder is the knowledge that this life is a vicious cycle, and without an education the kids have no chance of escaping.
Around five hours into the journey we stopped for lunch. The boat was pretty uncomfortable so I was happy to stop and stretch my legs, grab some delicious fresh pineapple, and use the facilities.
The length of the boat ride can vary greatly, and it depends on when you take the trip.
We went in early December which is the beginning of the dry season. Luckily we only got stuck a few times since the water level was still quite high, and made it to Battambang in 7 hours. I don’t know if I’d take the boat in the dry season though, since you can expect it to take at least 9 hours.
If you’re taking this boat you should definitely wear sunglasses and remember to duck. The boat speeds through some extremely narrow parts of the river, and I (along with plenty of other passengers) was smacked in the face by some branches in the tighter places.
While the boat got a bit boring and uncomfortable near the end of the trip, I’m definitely glad we took it. It was an opportunity for my mum to see what life is like for a large majority of Khmer’s, and otherwise she would only have seen the bigger cities like Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.