… or follow these tips to make the journey a little more pleasant.
One way to get from Siem Reap, the little town next to the temples of Angkor, to Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia, is to go by tourist boat. Floating villages, fishing boats and narrow rivers sounded enticing enough to choose this option without much prior research. Plus, our guide book also said it was a scenic trip and we dared not question its judgement. Do not make the same mistake.
If you care about safety and comfort at all, to stay well away from this boat: there were no life vests, the boat was overcrowded and well past its age, and the seats were hard as rock. If you have a weak bladder or children in your party, do not take this boat; we only got a single break, and yes, that was the only chance we got to use a bathroom during the 11 hours we spent on that boat.
But if you still want to go on this boat trip, consider following this advice:
1. Be prepared for delays in the morning. We were told that we’d be picked up at 7:15 am, at which time we discovered that, according to the tickets, the boat was supposed to have left at 7 am. Eventually, a Tuk Tuk arrived at 7:40 am and took us to a boat that left at 9 am.
2. Take plenty of water and some food. We got a short break at a small shop on the water but you don’t want to rely only on that.
3. Bring sun screen and a thin scarf to protect your shoulders and arms. Coming from Siem Reap, the left side of the boat gets more sun in the first half of the day.
4. Boats ‘drive’ on the right and you’ll get better views and pictures on the side that’s closer to the shore. We were on the other side.
5. Don’t sit on the deck. It’s a long boat ride, and you’ll end up red like a lobster if you do.
6. Bring a book. There isn’t always much to see, especially when the water is as low as it was in December. The, rather polluted, embankment really doesn’t offer enough entertainment for a 10+ hours boat ride.
7. Be prepared for delays in the evening too. Our boat got stuck several times. We got to Battambang at 8pm, several hours late and well after dark on a boat that didn’t seem to have headlights nor any other type of illumination.
Or, perhaps: just take a short boat trip on the lake instead and catch a bus to Battambang. You’ll save yourself a hell of a journey.