Furthur (III)

Battambang, Cambodia

Phnom Sampeau

Distant view of Phnom Sampeau

Battambang province, Cambodia

08:00: We have the day off to go sight-seeing. C. ups the fashion ante yet again by appearing for breakfast in a clinging gold lame body-suit.

10:00: As Phnom Sampeau looms up out of the haze, W. and N. begin to sing a traditional Khmer folk song about all the things that you can see from the summit of Phnom Sampeau.

10:01: The driver hastily turns on the radio and turns it up loud enough to drown the singing from the back of the bus.

10:15: M. powers up the three hundred and fifty steps to Wat Banan without pausing for breath. I follow, gasping, in her wake. C. struggles up behind me. The remainder of the group bring up the rear.

10:45: We make a straggling descent down the boulders on the far side, and explore a limestone cave complex that, for once, smells of damp earth rather than bat shit.

12:00: Lunch happens. Again.

14:00: M. powers up the twelve hundred and fifty steps to Wat Phnom Sampeau without pausing for breath. Our Khmer friends develop a sudden interest in the various fortune tellers and nuns camped out beside the steps, giving them an excuse to sit down and rest their aching legs. The nuns are seated in little white-washed huts, painted in blue with the names (and dollar values) of everyone who has given a donation. In return for donations, visitors also receive an official blessing, which culminates in a vigorous spraying of perfume. Our friends return to us smelling like an accident in a Chanel boutique.

14:30: The caves here are very holy, and smell powerfully of bat shit. Our Khmer friends, most of whom come up to my armpit, find the fact that I have to bend double to avoid knocking myself unconscious at every step extremely amusing.

15:30: Back in the bus, W. and N. start singing about Phnom Sampeau again.

15:31: The driver hastily turns on the radio and turns it up loud enough to drown the singing from the back of the bus.

15:40: The radio is now playing "Dragostea din tei (Numa numa)". M. and I burst out laughing. We really are living in a global village if Moldovan pop has reached Cambodia.

16:00: We wind through the back roads on our way back to NH5. It appears to be Cambodian National Build a Tent in the Road Day, so at one point we actually have to drive through someone's marquee.