Saturday, January 11, 2014

24. Siem Reap - Battambang

175 km

After a nice, last evening in Siem Reap meeting the son and girlfriend of old friends of mine from Germany (What a coincidence! All made possible by Facebook, although I almost never open Facebook any longer.), I headed out to the West, Cambodian Highway No.6. The ride follows a relatively good road, interrupted by sections which are in very bad condition, or under construction it seems, although I didn't see anyone working. 

And so many weddings! Even under my full-face helmet I hear the loud music already well in advance before I actually see the colorful fabric tent(s), and of course many parked cars and a sea of mopeds, dangerously interfering with the moving traffic on the road. What is very attractive to see are young ladies, fully dressed up in their gold-adorned long, traditional silk dresses, three to one moped, gold shoes instead of the ubiquitous rubber flip-flops, riding along to possibly the next wedding where they are invited. This is when I regret that I don't own a helmet camera, but only on occasions like this.

The road improves again before it turns into Asian Highway No. 1 (AH 1), which I already rode up in the north of Thailand, some 1500 kilometers from here. AH 1 sounds better than it is, before Battambang it is incredibly bad, with deep potholes, sand sections, and gravel. At least it is consistently bad, not like today's first section where a good road which allowed for higher speeds surprises with local deep holes.

What I noticed when seeing these potholes is how thin the actual asphalt layer is. I am not a road construction expert by any means but here the asphalt cover is not more than 2 inches before gravel or sand becomes visible, maybe less. In other words this seems to be a single layer construction without top or load bearing layers. Maybe this explains the frequent damage.

Psar Nat, Central Market, Battambang

Psar Nat, Central Market, Battambang

It seems there is a sale at the clock shop.

Psar Nat, Central Market, Battambang

Elementary school, Battambang. French built.

Battambang (Pronounced: BattamBONG) is a sleepy town, a true and welcome relief after my days in Siem Reap. I am thankful! Here are no Angkor ruins, just the small river Sangkar, a perfect 19th. century French city master plan, a fabulous central market building, Psar Nat,  authored by the same French architect who designed the Central Market in Phnom Penh.

19th century Paris store advertisement for custom clothing "for the colonies."

This is not a bar in a museum, just a 19th century bar, still functioning. Fabulous!

It is commonly said that Battambang is home to the best preserved French colonial style architecture of all of former French Indochina. Since this period of design still awaits discovering, there are only very few tourists. Half of the are backpackers with long Rastaban locks, the other half looks like retired university architecture-historians from England or France, with spouse.

I got me an old yet well-functioning bicycle from the Bed & Breakfast where I am staying and did already a first afternoon tour of the town. I already like it.

And I also saw already a BMW motorcycle in this town. What can one want more!

The Vietnamese BMW.
Top left in the picture is my bicycle.

Oh no! It's a SANYANG! 

One should not make fun of SANYANG, or how the Taiwanese company with production facilities in China, Taiwan and Vietnam is officially called, SYM. Their annual motorcycle sales exceed about 1 billion US $, last year they produced some 600,000 units of motorcycles globally.

This one in the picture was most likely made by SANYANG Vietnam, and imported to Cambodia.

Interesting is their venture in the U.S. market. In 2006 they formed an agreement with a U.S. distributor in Alabama to enter the U.S.. Mysteriously however, their warehouse burned down before sales started, 3,000 unsold motorcycles were destroyed. A police investigation determined that the cause of the fire was arson. SANYANG withdrew from the U.S. market in 2011.

Good doggie at the B&B.

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