Monday, October 30, 2017

Weekend in Battambang

Battambang is the capital of Battambang Provence. Founded in the 11th century, Battambang today is the largest rice producer in Cambodia. The City is situated on the Sangkae River and has some of the best-preserved French architecture in the country.

Look at that Big Stick!

Battambang means, literally, “loss of stick” referring to the legend of Phreah Bat Dumbong  Kranghoung, known as Ta Dumbong. There is a large statue of Dumbong at the eastern end of town, on National Road 5. He was a cowherder who found a magic stick; chaos ensued – gods were destroyed and created.
City Market on the banks of the River

Decidedly, from our last visit 1.5 years ago, the town is prospering. There are new restaurants, hotels and business. They have installed their first 2 traffic lights on Route 5, which winds thru town on its’ way to Phnom Phen. Now a destination instead of a rest stop, tourist dollars as well as the rice industry are enriching the citizenship. According to Primo Troxell, 2 years ago the average Cambodian made 85.00 USD a month. Now that figure is 145.00USD. I am thrilled that the populace is doing well, but am very glad that we visited when we did, before gentrification sets in. Down the street, in a lovely 2 story French colonial building, a KFC is in place. We had ice cream at the Swenson’s last night. The infamous Bamboo Train has been closed

Fun inside the Market

Along the river is a large park, on both sides. There are bike paths, exercise courses, small temples and plenty o’ Buddhas. Venders fill the street at night with tasty treats, balloons and music. We get around town in Tuk-Tuks. The city is in a grid and is very walkable, if a TukTuk is not to your liking, and very safe. About the worst thing that can happen is someone asks you if you want a “boom boom” or if there are fried spiders on your dinner plate.
Prima buying scarves in the Market
Signs around town warn Tourist’s about the Orphanage Crisis. Given Cambodia’s desperate living conditions, many younger folks have gone to Thailand in search of jobs. They leave their children with grandparents, if they are lucky or some sort of relative. Good meaning foreigner’s started orphanages, thru NGO’s (non-government organizations) but a lot of unscrupulous folks started the business of orphanages. Old folks were offered pittances to take grandchildren off their hands. The orphanages solicitated money from tourist and foreigner’s – give to the good cause. The more children-the more money that could be made, little or none of it going to the children. Now a remedy is underway to support families to stay together and to bring parents back home to jobs, a future and to a family. 
TukTuk's - good for everything!

At The Classy Hotel, where we stayed, the International Habitat for Humanity group were staying for the week to build homes. The Carrita’s Eye Hospital also stayed there, with their mobile eye clinic and surgical center. Breakfast conversations were very interesting.

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