Our final morning in the Hari Residence & Spa was spent lounging in our room, enjoying the space and comfortable surroundings. After checking out and enjoying lunch at the hotel we took a taxi to the bus station and checked in. At 14:00 we set off to Battambang, the journey took 4 hours but we did stop after an hour and a half to have a Cornetto! We finally rocked up to our hotel, The Royal, at 18:15 only to discover that they only had a twin room available. The staff assured us we would be moved in the morning so we unloaded our bags and put our big girl pants on!
As we were settling into the room the city had a blackout, fortunately the hotel had a backup generator which quickly restored power however the restaurants without one, had to close. Hungry, we wandered into the dark streets, lit only by car and motorbike headlights (mildly terrifying trying to cross the road), we finally found an open restaurant, Rice Holic. It was a Japanese restaurant that, in all honesty, we would normally have walked passed but we were glad we didn't as the food was amazing! Craig tried ramen for the first time and absolutely loved it.
The power came back on while we were eating and we were relieved to see the A/C running in the room when we got in.
The next morning, we put in a load of laundry and had breakfast at the hotel before booking a remork to take us to the bamboo train and back. In late 2017, the authorities closed the original bamboo train as a passenger train service was established from Phnom Penh to Battambang and so the line was improved. The bamboo train was subsequently moved to a very touristy location, with purpose built tracks, 20km from the city. Our driver however, took us to the site of the original bamboo train. Turns out the industrious entrepreneurs who started the venture had come back. The train we rode is called a nori (from the French for lorry) and is an improvised rail vehicle that was originally used to transport people and goods along the rail line in the poverty after the Khymer Rouge years. The advantage of a nori on a single track line is it can be quickly disassembled and reassembled at the side of the railway. We boarded our nori after our remork driver had put us to the front of the line and we paid our $5pp 'fare'. sat crosslegged at the front, the nori picked up speed and soon we were cruising along as the scenery passed us by.
We didn't get far before we had to stop for oncoming traffic and so we got to watch the drivers take apart the nori. First the driver removed the drive belt from the engine, that wouldn't look out of place on a petrol lawnmower, the board we had been sitting on (that was made of bamboo strips joined together), almost floated off and then the 2 axles were taken off the track and voila! The track was clear.
Once the traffic passed, Craig got to help build the nori back up, placing the front axle back on the track and then helping the driver lift the light bamboo board back on and lining up the axle with the grooves that housed them. The driver reassembled the drive belt then used a home made, detachable rip cord to restart the engine and we were off again.
The stop was a 'market' that was only there because we would be and we weren't even off the nori when we were surrounded by 3 women trying to sell us stuff. We decided to go for a wander but we didn't have far to go so we decided, we're in it now, and went and sat in one of the store's and enjoyed a fresh coconut, Craig's first! The ladies were pleasant company and although they occasionally tried to sell us extra they seemed happy to have gotten at least one sale out of us. We believe that the driver's families set up the markets and so it's a way to make a living which you can't argue with, on top of the wage the driver makes, plus their tips. The return journey was uneventful, probably more enjoyable as we felt more confident we wouldn't be shaken off the track and we were soon back on the remork and then at the hotel.
The rest of the afternoon was spent planning some of the next few weeks, we had dinner at La Casa and some packing for our next destination, Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh.