We have been on the go since we left Durban on 1 January, and today is a much deserved “rest” and admin day.
After a leisurely breakfast on the roof restaurant of our hotel, I spend some time taking photos from up there. It’s a great vantage point even thought the numerous cables and telephone lines are intrusive. I am rewarded with a row of monks walking along the street doing their early morning round for alms amongst other great photo opportunities of people commuting on bicycles, tuk-tuks and motorbikes. The light is lovely and the shadows are long, and I thoroughly enjoy myself.
Part of the admin of the day is to find a shop that sells memory cards for my camera. I have done the math, and at the rate that I am taking photographs, I will run out of memory space fairly soon. We take a leisurely stroll around and come across a number of photo shops. Fortunately I find one which sells exactly what I am looking for. We continue our walk along the riverfront taking photos of the french inspired architecture and the shop houses.
We come across a Wat and venture in to look around. As with most wats, there are monks studying here. They enjoy chatting to visitors and use the opportunity to practice their English, so tend to come out to chat when they see you. We welcome the time to sit in the shade of a large tree as the midday heat is soaring and so is the humidity.
On my return to the hotel, I look up information on the Wat and it is called Wat Sangker. The name Sangker is a kind of tree. Back in the days when the river had two branches and when the Sangker branch was only five metres wide, there was a large sangker tree along the river. The wat at that point was called Wat Sangker. The tree was cut down so that people could walk across the river on its trunk, hence the name Sangker River.
Much is said about what the Khmer Rouge did to the wats, but in these cases, it was the Vietnamese occupation that did the damage. During the 1980s, when the Vietnamese army was fighting the combined forces of King Sihanouk and the Khmer Rouge, Battambang was a key staging area for the entire Northwest. Vietnamese troops were stationed in the wats, a clever ploy because the Cambodians would be reluctant to bomb one of their own wats, or so the Vietnamese thought. Considerable damage was done by Cambodian shelling, but the wats are still intact. Wat Sangker has been rebuilt and stands out brilliantly along the river.
The rest of the day is spent catching up on writing, drinking Cambodian iced coffee (a shot of espresso, some condensed milk and crushed ice), which is absolutely delicious, and resting.
Tomorrow we catch a boat to Siem Riep and previous experience tells me it will be a long day.