We awoke bright and early to get the bus to Battambang, a city near the Thai border. We arrived at lunchtime but very quickly were wondering what to do…! The town isn’t all that special and we quickly decided that we would only spend the one night instead of the two we were planning, however once we got on bikes we could see why this town was a great place from which to see Cambodia. 5 minutes from the town the roads turned to dust, and the lovely people of rural Cambodia were there to wave and greet us on the streets once more.
A few km from the town we came across a sign for a crocodile park. We paid one dollar to go into this families plot of land not really sure what to expect. Inside 4 concrete enclosures was no less than 700 crocodiles! They were incredible, frozen still with their mouths open and sunbathing it was hard to believe they were real, others hid just under the surface of the water. The young girl of the family explained they used them for their skin, and also sold the meat. She prodded a few with a stick and the sound of their mouths snapping shut made us jump. I am not really sure I would feel comfortable having 700 crocodiles in an enclosure 1.5 metres high that close to my house.
We rode on and were getting a little crowd of children following us on their bikes and many others shouting and waving as we rode past. At this point I think I would have been forgiven for adopting a few. We came across a local market, bought some BBQ pork, immediately went back for more BBQ pork and then rode home.
On our last night in Cambodia we appreciated the Cambodia draught beer and had a few games of pool in the hostel. It has been such a beautiful and challenging country and I am sure we will be back.
In the morning we got a Tuk Tuk to a taxi to the border at Poi Pet, passed customs and immigration and then sat waiting the other side for a bus to take us to Bangkok. We made some friends who came and went. The bus company even suggested that if we bribed him our bus might come quicker! It was a frustrating introduction into the vague guesstimates the Thai people give when it comes to timing.
It wasn’t until the evening we passed through Bangkok’s traffic to get dropped off. Our hostel was pretty but robbed us of all our baht to pay for an expensive key deposit so we went to find the centre and some money exchanges. We had heard quite a bit about the protests in Bangkok which have caused a few disruptions in the last week as two rival groups protest over corruptions in the government. At the top of the street was the democracy monument and lots of people camped out around big screens. Lots of food stalls and road blocks around this area suggested this was a peaceful but quite permanent sit in. On the screen was rousing speeches followed by music and dancing, to peaceful melodies.
We had planned to have two days in Bangkok however come morning we had no idea really what to do. The top things in our lonely planet were some rather pricey temples which didn’t get considered long before we decided we couldn’t face more temples.
We walked to Siam Square and upmarket area of town with lots of impressive shopping malls. At the riverside on the way we saw two huge lizards sunbathing. The type of thing that reminds you your not just in any big bustling city.
A small amount of window shopping later we decided to go and watch The Hobbit pt 2. The screen was huge and sneaking in toward the end of the trailers we thought we may have missed the short movie about the King they screen but no, the national anthem blared and the whole cinema rose to watch the King tending to the sick and helping old ladies cross the road. They really love the King here and refusing to stand can get you a jail sentence.
After the film we walked through the warm evening back to the hostel, made some friends and decided to hit Khao San road. This streets reputation far proceeds any trip to Bangkok both as the backpacker area, the bar street, the place in which you are most likely to get scammed etc. Maybe due to its reputation I was expecting more. The street is lively but in size it is actually very small and not modern or upmarket in any sense. We got some food and watched some live music which was really nice, if not the most expensive place for a long while!
Once again we were lost for what to do and not really feeling that overwhelmed with love for Bangkok which I guess we thought would be on a par with vibrant Beijing. We decided to take a walk first down to the river, then through the Chinatown district where they were selling no end of weird things on stalls on the side of the road. We followed the road down to the district of Silom and got some amazing street food, juicy pork and rice, some freshly squeezed orange juice and some watermelon. By the time we ended up in Lumphimi park we had walked 7km in the boiling heat and were exhausted.
The park was a nice place to chill out. Again we were fascinated by the wildlife as we watched a giant lizard stalking birds around. Our walk back was another hefty 5km and by the time we got back it was time to head to the bus station for our night bus to Krabi. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at a stall in the station and were sitting down when the music got a little louder. Everyone was standing and facing the small TV set in the corner of the room. We turned and there was the King on TV. Once again we stood, we have probably now shown more respect for the Thai King than our own queen, he’s a much adored man here.
Next stop, south of Thailand, Krabi…