Battenbang with Bun

Laura, Layla and I booked to have a tour with Bun, the tuk tuk driver.
We arranged a 10am pick up because we are lazy, and then he offered us the chance of going to a Cambodian wedding. 
So at 0750 he’s picking us up from the hostel, stop off to pick up his mum, and head to the ceremony.

We stop for fuel, which is sold by the side of the road in pop bottles. I had been wondering what these were, and now I know!

We each get handed a plate of fruit, the bride can only come out and get married if there is enough fruit. 

We had to file out of the venue and line up in the street, then walk back in sitting opposite someone with the same fruit, dancers would then walk down the aisle and fill baskets with the fruit.

The fruit is offered to the bride’s family. 

There was enough fruit so the bride was allowed out! 

Bun started to show us how to eat the fruit we had at this point, I had some sort of berry which was like a lychee.

The bride and groom thank their parents.

And they were married!

And we had pictures taken with the newlyweds.

Time for a wedding breakfast feast!

Didn’t expect this this morning! 

We thanked the bride and groom for allowing us at their wedding and Bun whisked us away to the bamboo train. 

He told us they will be shutting the train down in two months even though it’s a huge tourist attraction.

It was a lot faster and scarier than I thought it would be. I was expecting a slow trundle through the paddy fields, instead it was like the scene out of Temple of Doom!

As it’s a single track but with two-way traffic, if you meet another train both stop and one gets dismantled off the tracks to allow the other to pass.

At the end of the line is a tiny village where it’s main income must be tourism, as it’s all cold drinks, t-shirts, bamboo souvenirs and young girls selling cotton bracelets.

Ride back along the tracks, at one point our driver abandoned the train, we only realized this when someone else jumped on and stopped us!

Bun was waiting for us.

He gave us the choice of temple or see how foods are made. We unanimously chose food, rice noodle making first.
Noodles made from rice flour are squeezed out into a pan of boiling water, once they have cooked they are transferred to cool water, then drained then put into another bowl of water for these ladies to fish out and pack ready to sell. 

Next we were taken to a village where they make bamboo rice. They stuff a section of bamboo with rice, coconut milk and black beans, stuff it with banana leaves and roast over a burning bamboo fire.

This tasted pretty good. Stodgy, but good.
The village had a Buddhist temple and Bun explained a little about the war which was only in 1975, not that long ago really.

Monkey Buddha seems a little violent to me.
Bun took us for some ice tea and explained a little more about the history and culture.

Fish paste making was the next stop. The malodorous breeze greets you as you come over the bridge, there are warehouses full of women chopping the fish into different sections and piling it high in mounds on the floor.

Holding our breath we walked through the sheds with the sound of knives hitting chopping boards, and the stench of fish in the heat.
The result of this work is this fish paste which is used in basically everything and is even referred to as ‘Cambodian cheese’. 

Further back up the road (but not far enough away from the smell) was a few carts selling various foods.

One was silk worms, cockroaches, crickets, and rat.

Rat didn’t look very appealing. 
Bun then bought us some traditional Cambodian cake, banana wrapped in rice wrapped in a banana leaf and barbecued.

I wasn’t able to eat this, the fish smell in my nostrils had enveloped and overwhelmed all my senses. I think we were all grateful to be moving onto the next place.
Dried banana chips/slices.

The bananas are grown here, slicesd into wafer thin slices and placed on a drying board. They become one giant sheet of banana. This would make an awesome vegan jerky!

These bananas are tiny.

I am saving all this food now as I’m stuffed!
Next we are taken to a rice wine maker. Everything seems so natural in the way it’s produced. Starts with natural ingredients, and blended to create a very potent spirit.
I couldn’t bring myself to try this having had rice wine in the past and knowing how volatile it is!

Laura and Layla had a taste and reported back that it was decent apart from the heartburn it brought on!

No one wanted the snake infused rice wine!
Our next stop was rice pancakes that are used in making fresh spring rolls. I love these and it was good to know they are literally rice and water. The process to make them seems monotonous.

One girl steams the pancakes on a cloth, the other puts them on the drying board. They do this all day! 

We were served one fresh and one fried, they were both amazing. Best spring rolls I’ve had!
This brought this part of our tour to a close. We had been with Bun since 0750 this morning and it was now 1500. 
He returned us to our hostel and we face planted our beds for an hour or so. At 1740 he returned to collect us to take us to the bat caves.

This was pretty awesome. Thousands of wrinkle lipped bats flooding out of their cave creating this dragon-like formation across the sky. 
Bun asked if we would like to return to the wedding to celebrate with the new couple, we had to decline as it was intended to be an all-nighter and we are moving on early tomorrow.
Last meal in Battenbang, we returned to the little food area on the water front, a bit done with rice after all the snacks we consumed throughout the day. We had a green curry (I ordered red but the owner basically told me it’s too hot for me!) it was nice, but all I could think of was the fact that I now knew they used the fish paste as a base for the curry, and that scent filled my nostrils once more!


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