C’mon, pick up, pick up. “Hello“. Bopha is that you? “Yeah hello. Wha u wan?” she sounded as groggy as hell. Bopha it’s me. Hobo. Are you still coming to Siem Reap? Its 6am and you were supposed to meet me here at my digs. The tuk tuk comes soon and the boat is booked. Are you still coming? “Yeah….. Who is it?” Sigh! Bopha its me Hobo. Remember? You are still coming yeah? “Yeah. Send tuk tuk round to my house.” Yeah ok Bopha. See you soon. Click! (There was no click because it was a mobile phone but I thought it added atmosphere)
So this was the start of my trip to Siem reap by boat. Not a good start but hey lets see how it goes yeah?
The tuk tuk arrived. This was when I realised I was not too sure where Bopha lived. I vaguely remembered going there on bike a few days before. Bopha who worked at a local bar in Battambang had invited me and a couple of others around to her house where she had taken us to a local market where we all chipped in to buy ingredients and cook the food at her house. I had got over excited at seeing snake being sold and everyone had agreed it would be a good idea to buy one and cook it, (only later did I find that I was the only one who would eat it, not even the locals would (It tasted like chicken)). I had mentioned about going to Siem Reap by boat and Bopha had been keen to go. With much guess work and eventually a phone call (which woke Bopha up again) we finally found her house.
She looked like shit and I had a good idea why. There was a Belgium girl who drank at my guest house and although a fun person was only concerned at enjoying herself at any cost. It didn’t matter to her that other people had agendas as long as she got high. She loved this local nightclub, which was pretty bad to tell the truth with Cambodian love tunes belting out to a room that could only best be described as seriously pretty much unoccupied. I was pretty sure she had convinced Bopha it would be a good idea to stay there till 3am despite having to get picked up at 6am for Siem reap. She wobbled into the tuk tuk and off we went to the docks several kilometers away to join our boat.
The boat was similar to the longtail boats common throughout a lot of Asia only larger. It had wooden benches either side with padded seats and once the passengers and supplies for the villages on the way were loaded we set off. The main reason I had gone to Battambang was for this boat trip, and I was so glad I did. Most people either go to Siem Reap by bus from either Phnom Penh or straight from Thailand, but as soon as I heard about this boat I knew it was for me.
The boat takes you through back water ways and narrow river-lets through what is basically a vast marshy flood plain. Stopping occasionally at little villages to drop goods or people off or load them on it was an amazing sight of the traditional Cambodia. Eventually we would hit Tonle Sap Lake then cross to the other side and go onward by tuk tuk to Siem Reap. The best sights for me were the floating villages. Totally isolated many apart from by boat. We stopped at one floating hut which sold snacks. I turned to Bopha to see if she wanted any food or drink and she was not there. Eventually I found her asleep at the back. She woke with a start. I don’t think she knew where she was. We got off and had some much needed food and drink. Bopha looked a lot better for it.
The boat carried on across the lake. It was about a 5 hour journey in total and we were all feeling the affects of getting up early and the long journey on hard wooden benches with only an inch thick cushion for padding. We stopped at the other side and after much haggling I managed to get us a tuk tuk for a few dollars. I heard many passengers paying well over twice what I paid because they did not negotiate. Its hard to get used to having to bargain all the time but if you don’t Asians will quite happily fleece you 90% of the time.
So finally I had reached Siem Reap. Bopha had slept through nearly the entire journey but on the good side she did have many cousins ready to meet us on the other side for a night out.
Thanks for reading.