Dorothee Lang, Battambang, Cambodia


Travel Writing > Travelogues > Boat to Battambang

Boat to Battambang by Dorothee Lang

“The boat to Battambang leaves at seven”, said the boat-ticket-seller cheerfully. I sighed. being at the boat at seven means pick up at five thirty means get up at five... which is exactly the time I got up the day before, to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

And no, there's no later boat. Just as there's no later sunrise. Cambodia is still pretty much running on suntime. Life starts at dawn, when the first rays of light dance through the night sky, tickling the stars. That's when the streets start to get crowded with people balancing baskets of fresh bread or fresh fish on their head, with bicycles delivering unbelievable amounts of coconuts in one go, and with motobikes carrying whole families or whole pigs on their backseat.

You can see old monks in their orange robes lined up for food offerings now, young girls in their blue-white school-uniforms lined up for pickups, and multicoloured markets full of fresh vegetables and fruits under yellow and green umbrellas lined up for customers.

As the sun rises higher and higher, the heat pours in the streets and fields, and everyone moves towards the shade. Siesta-time. Time of swinging hammocks, of dozing dogs, of motortaxi-drivers taking naps on their bikes like cats on the branches of a tree. Then, in the afternoon, the pulse of life increases again. The street get busy once more. and the river, too - boats come and go, fish get caught, laundry gets done. One hour before sunset is bathing time - young girls are splishing and splashing, young boys are jumping from boats into the river again and again, women in pink sarongs wash their black hair, old men gracefully take their daily bath. All in this one river, that starts to change its colour again, reflecting the orange and the hazy yellow clouds in its water mirror.

If you happen to take the seven o'clock boat from Angkor to Battambang, and if your engine breaks down, too, you can watch the whole day-circle from the deck of the boat, while you slowly float through hundreds of s-shaped curves. You sit there, let the hours pass by, and with every hour the easiness and hardness of this life that seems light years away from our electric-light-and-inside-shower-world touches you deeper.

And then, much later, when the sun has said goodbye and the moon has said hello to the skies again, you find yourself on the balcony of your guesthouse, under the shining stars, above the sleeping streets, beside the river that just keeps flowing and flowing, and you find yourself saying a prayer for all the children that waved hello to you during the day on the river, wishing they find a way to a safer life without loosing their smiles.

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