Battambang province is quite big and has few interesting things to see. So a tour across the province was very necessary. And the best way to see Battambang is on an airy tuk tuk. Every tuk tuk driver can take you for the below sightseeing, but do look for someone who has some knowledge, as the tour gets interesting when you get to know the history of the country or the stories which are passed on by generation to the their next. And at first, I had to know why this province is called Battambang.
The Lost Stick Province:
There is a story behind naming this region Battambang and it goes something like this… Once there was a cowhand in the distant land of Cambodia, he used to work in a farm and tend the cows. One Day when in the jungle herding the cows, he came across a fine wooden stick and made that his very own possession. Gradually he realised that the stick he possessed had magical powers and it could control his herd of cattle from any direction.
So whenever he had to bring his cattle back by the end of the day to head back to the village, he would throw the stick to the direction the pack had been to and the stick would do the work. As time passed, Dambong, the cowhand was losing interest in his job; he had greater dreams to accomplish, to become the king of the region. With the help of his magical staff, he very easily dethroned the then ruler and became king by himself.
One night he dreamt that his monarchy wouldn’t last forever and there would be a time that he would lose his dominion. Hence he decided to invite all the nobles across the region to find a solution to it. The former king who was living a saint’s life in the forest heard about it and decided to take part in it. On the way some ascetic offered a white stallion horse to him, to ride on to his journey. Accepting it, while the former king was nearly close to reach the kingdom, Dambong anticipated him to be the enemy and threw his stick to the former king.
Surprisingly, the stick just vanished from there and was never to return to the king. Knowing the end of his reign, Dambong escaped and was never to be traced ever after. But the locals have a strong believe that he is still there among them as an important member of their family, a grandfather of the family as they consider him. So they not only worship him till today, his statue at the middle of the city is respected by everyone, people offer their prayer to him, he is believed to fulfill wishes as well. As they say, though a villain, he is worshiped for his great powers!!
After this interesting story, we moved to the countryside Battambang. And the countryside Battambang is just so colourful. Now by colour I don’t just mean the dense green paddy field or the vibrant fruits hanging on the trees.. of course the just rinsed green villages have a different pastoral beauty, but I loved the people here. The afternoons are so chirping near by any village shop. The women are busy playing Bingo, the children are also out of their house, playing. Munching or watching their mothers having fun! The greener Battambang is also very quiet at places as many are happier enjoying their siesta inside their houses or there’s some random young lad waiting for tourists to come to his village to greet him with a cheerful ‘Hello’ and shaking hands with him!!
I even stopped at a junction of a road with awe and I so strongly wished that particular place to have a night camp where I could gaze on the starts at the night sky. Just imagine, ginormous green lands well spread between a moderately wide & red mud and gravel road, hardly any residence in that vicinity, may be one or two tuktuk is passing by following the head-light at the front. And you are in the middle of the field with your gang, roasting sweet potato and the starts are shimmering up in the sky, no street lights to spoil the mood. Amazing!! won’t it be?? But I just wished for it and maybe someday it will be true!!
So moving forward, the first stop was #BambooTrainRide, the ride I was really looking forward to.
The tuktuk stops at a real railway station, where 1-2 trains pass in a day, rest of the time till 4 in the evening, these Bamboo trains are run for the tourists only. Long time ago, these Bamboo trains were used by the locals to transport goods from one place to the other, however presently it’s only remained as an attraction for tourists.
These so called trains are basically a flat square bed made of Bamboo, placed on a pair of heavy steel wheels and run on motor than hand pushed bamboo stick. Each cart can accommodate 4 pax at a time (don’t worry there are plenty such carts available, so you don’t have to wait for eternity for your turn!!), you pay USD 5.00 per person basis to the ticket collector and take your ride (no pre-reservation required or possible). It’s about a 15 minutes ride to go to the next village, stop there for 5-10 minutes, if you want to do local shopping or buy some cold drinks and then take your ride back for another 10 minutes from where you started.
The ride is a joy. The sun was shining at one side, the dancing farm lands rolled till the horizon, the sound of the motor, our cart was rolling at a moderate speed, it was windy and there was this jaunty feeling.
Oh! one interesting point, there is only one track for this ride, so the track in use to take you to the next village will also bring you back to the starting point, so the question is how the next cart or carts are commuting then?? Here’s how….