May 18-24, 2015
GPS waypoint: 13°05'56.7"N 103°11'53.9"E
Location: Battambang City, Province of Battambang, Cambodia
After my 12 days of serving at 2 Vipassana Meditation courses (10-day sit and children's 1-day course), I defaulted back to Battambang. I have good memories of Battambang from my last visit in Sep 2014. It's a big river town ranking only next to Phnom Penh in size. But unlike Phnom Penh, it's not as hurried and the people are more laid back, and I would even say, honest. My local friends tell me the vendors in Battambang won't overprice the foreigners. Well, the tuk-tuk drivers are perhaps an exception to that. But overall, Battambang is quaint despite its size, and charming specially the section along the river.
The first day in Battambang, I closed a hotel deal with a four star hotel with over-the-top wood panelings - Classy Hotel and Spa. The other days, I stayed at Lux Guesthouse - big room, solid wooden bed with ornate wood carvings. In my 20 days in Battambang, the only lodging I paid for was 1 night for $4 at 333 Guesthouse - best value for a private room plus tv and ensuite. There are decent $3 dorm beds available too at other places, which is what I like about Battambang - you don't spend too much on lodging and still get decent space.
Ksenia is a tall and beautiful Russian who also served at the Vipassana course. We were the only English speaking servers. After the course, we became fast friends and hung out in Battambang for the 2 days she'd be there. It was cool spending time with her, discovering the town all over again with good company. We rode our bikes and went about town - to the market, eating at White Rose, chilling by the river with our sugar cane juice, exchanging thoughts and insights specially with our meditation practice, etc. She had to go back to the center while I stayed in Battambang roaming the town by myself.
New Business Model
I am usually broke or have little money when I travel. True, it's by choice, but I stumbled upon an idea during my Vipassana meditation that might change things a bit for me - more money, less work and more time for other stuff I had been putting aside. I applied the new business model here in Battambang and I closed a few hotel deals ensuring my continued hotel stay plus even cash. This makes life a little easier for me - more money for new clothes as they are all falling apart, more time to learn Google Analytics, Google Map Maker, Word Press smart resolution codes, etc. I feel a kind of liberation since I sometimes feel enslaved by the amount of web work I impose on myself.
With my new business model, it got easy closing deals. I gave as much as a received, giving free web services to organizations that help the local community or friends who were traveling that needed hotel accommodation where I had remaining credts. I thought I was on my way to Easy Street. However, it wasn't that easy. Getting to talk to owners or decision makers was the big hurdle. I'd stop by up to 4x at a hotel hoping to catch the owners to no avail. I banged on so many hotel doors without getting to talk to anyone. Perhaps half my time on Battambang was devoted to keeping afloat...like a hamster on a wheel. Oh well, that's life.
My 11 year old (even got it second hand then) Thai fisherman's pants ripped - I needed to buy a replacement. I fancied this Alibaba pants at the night market. They wanted $4 and every night, I would stop by and offer $3 - they would say, "It's still $4". One morning, I met with a hotel manager who happened to be the same person at the night market. Apparently, the night market is her personal business. She instantly recognized me and said, "You're the $3 guy!". We laughed. That night, I passed by her stall and bought 2 pairs at $4 each. Ha-ha.
With my Facebook posting of lotus seeds for planting, I got a few requests from friends to bring back some to the Philippines. I thought it would be simple but it proved to be difficult. The eating lotus seeds are not for planting. The planting seeds are not sold in the market, but at the lotus farm about 20 kms away. I tried a few markets carrying a Khmer note with me that I show to vendors, telling them I am looking for planting seeds. They all gave me the shrugs. I found old and dried seeds but was told they are not for planting. Oh well, I tried. Fortunately, Tuyen, my ever-so-reliable Vietnamese friend in Saigon was able to source a few seeds - at least I won't be coming back to the Philippines empty-handed.
Here Be Dragons
One of the coolest places to chill out in Battambang is this new backpacker hostel, bar and restaurant, Here Be Dragons. I hear everyone there is a big fan of the hugely popular tv series, Game of Thrones. If not for the free hotel rooms I was getting, I would have checked-in at their $3/night dorm beds. Nonetheless, I'd hang out there, attend Bene's yoga, do a little of their special $2 Friday cocktail night. I even conducted a free yoga class. The people are friendly and it's a good place to meet people and make new friends.
Like most destinations I find myself in, I try to teach free yoga - another way of sharing the love. When I saw the yoga sign at Here Be Dragons, I joined in and inquired if they can allow me to teach free yoga. My class was a full 90 minutes covering yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation. It felt great to be back after a long absence.
It's been my 2nd stay in Battambang and I have come to love this place even more. It doesn't suffer from the commercialization of tourism since there aren't too many tourists here to begin with. Market vendors do not overprice the foreigners and it's perfectly safe to walk at night. Everything is cheap - $1/day for bike rentals (but you have to negotiate for it otherwise it's $2), $1 local meals, $.25 for a plastic glass of sugar cane juice, $1 coffee, etc. The Khmer people here are calm, laid back and almost oblivious to your presence. The foreign travelers are friendly and easy to talk with. Altogether, the place grows on you. If I had more time in Cambodia, I would probably just stay here in Battambang. But my visa expires and I have to pack up again. Thank you Battambang.
May 18-24, 2015
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