The day started early once again, 7:45am to be exact, after showering, packing, and having breakfast we were set to go. At 9am a minibus pulled up outside to take us to the bus station. We made a few stops on the way to pick up various others and when we arrived we only had a small amount of time to wait before a large blue coach showed up. As we waited, Sarah gave some money to a man with no forearms. I think she may have been the only one to do so, as everyone else appeared to ignore him. We chucked our bags on the bus and prepared ourselves for the 3 and a half hour journey to Battambang.
For the best part of the journey Sarah and I watched the movie “This is 40”, yet had to stop halfway through when the driver made a stop. At that point Sarah and Jamie got off the bus for a bathroom break, leaving me to look after the bags. We were all in for a shock when the driver pulled away, leaving half the passengers stranded. I quickly jumped out of my seat to let them know not everyone was staying there, to which they told me they knew but had to move the bus to prevent a road block. We only moved a couple of blocks around the corner, during that time I befriended the guy sat next to me. His name was Will and was from Perth, Australia. The driver gave them an adequate amount of time before returning to pick them up. An hour later we had arrived in Battambang.
When we grabbed our bags there was a tuktuk driver who worked for the hotel. He gave us a free lift there, but before we took off he tried to arrange a day trip for us the next day, all the while we had an old begging woman circling us and tapping our shoulders to get our attention. I didn’t want to be rude, as they probably can’t help the fact they’re in that situation, but I found myself saying “NO”, quite firmly. It sounds harsh, but there are so many beggars that if you were to give money to all of them you’d soon be out of pocket. Also it’s very ironic that they target the popular areas, e.g the bus drop off points. As we left for the hotel we passed another beggar, 5 minutes later we arrived and booked up the day trip with the driver the next day.
We checked in, after having to show our reservation number, and dropped our bags off in our rather small, dirty looking room. The tuktuk driver followed us up and stood around the doorway, clearly waiting for a tip. Instead, Jamie closed the door in his face saying thank you until the man became invisible (hey, what do you want from us? The tuktuk ride was included in the accommodation price). Immediately after we headed back out the door to find somewhere to eat. Just around the corner we found a place called “The Smoking Pot”, they were recommended in the Lonely Planet guidebook (then again, as was our hotel we just checked into). We ordered spaghetti carbonara and two fry ups, along with fruit shakes which were surprisingly cheap ($1 each). When we were done eating we paid up and went exploring… Yeah, to answer your question the food was alright, but not great.
The sun was very hot as we meandered around, we didn’t get far, making it across a bridge and stopping in a Japanese restaurant for coffee was as far we got. Due to the language barrier we all ended up with iced coffees, whereas it should have been 2 hot coffees and only 1 iced coffee. I refused to drink mine (because I am a rebel) yet still paid at the end. We then made our way back to the hotel. While Sarah and Jamie were stranded during the bus ride earlier that day they told me they also befriended some people, a couple from Dorset to be precise. They then went on to say the couple recommended a hotel around the corner from ours. Seeing as we only had one night booked at our hotel we decided to pay them a visit and see if they were free the following night. They were. Their rooms were a lot nicer, and came at a decent price ($15 a night). We booked a room and 3 tickets to the circus, for later on that night, and returned to our hotel like three cheating stop outs.
We even lied to the receptionists face when he asked what our plans were for the next day, claiming we were heading back to Bangkok. It got worse when he asked if we had a bus booked (after he was kind enough to tell us what the hotel had to offer in terms of transport earlier that day) and we told yet another lie by saying we booked one up already. Up the stairs we went, hanging our heads in shame, and returned to the room for a couple hours. When 6:15pm rolled around we left our hotel to return to our bit on the side, ready to be picked up by a tuktuk and taken to the Battambang Circus.
The Battambang Circus put on shows every Monday and Thursday evening. The shows include a range of disciplines from acrobatics and juggling to aerial work and clowning. The shows are put on by students from the NGO arts school, Phare Ponleu Selpak. This organisation helps disadvantaged children and young people escape from situations connected with poverty such as begging or trafficking and to get an education, both in normal public school and in the arts. It was extremely impressive to say the least. When you consider they have so little, they are so talented. All the way through it was hard to believe what my eyes were seeing.
There were girls capable of contortion beyond extremes. They bent themselves into shapes that looked like it should really hurt, especially when another girl came along and lifted herself on top a girl bent in half on the floor. There were boys that were so strong they were able to lift themselves into the air on a tiny platform with one arm. It almost defied physics, as their arms didn’t seem big enough to be able to support their weight, but there they went, up and away. Everyone was clapping and cheering throughout and at the end, a tip box came down. This was in aid of two boys from the circus, aged 16 & 17. They were trying to raise enough money to allow them to go to Canada for two years, and study with the cirque du soleil crew. I was so impressed with the show that I put in $5, however, Jamie thinks he saw one guy put in a $100 note (looks like they might get their dream come true yet).
When we left I shook hands with some of the young boys from the show, and because I was wearing a vest, they all saw my tattoo. They all rubbed it to make sure it was real, one of them even showed me a spot on his chest where he hoped to get one. I nearly, NEARLY, had some tears where I was so proud of them, but managed to keep it together. We then left hoping they got everything they deserved from their lives. Our tuktuk driver was waiting outside for us and took us back to the hotel, with a foreign couple joining us for the journey. They got out at their hotel, then our driver took us a little way down the road to a restaurant. I ordered a lovely burger, Sarah had the caesar salad, and Jamie had lasagne, it was good food. Certainly filling enough for a meal before bed, after we paid it was back to the hotel where we’d remain for the rest of the night. In our separate beds Sarah was the first to fall asleep, leaving Jamie and I to watch tv. Now then Jamie, what number was that model channel again?