As a fan of road trips, I’ve stopped at my fair share of rest areas. Some have great views and some…well, they’ve seen better days. I’ve been to some of the top rest stops in America including South of the Border and the original Buc-ee’s. Yes, they’re huge, touristy, and usually packed, but they’re must stops if your road trip takes you by one.
A Cambodian rest area between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap that is the most unusual rest stop I’ve ever been to. We had been in the car for a couple of hours. It takes about 4-5 hours by car to get to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh depending on traffic. Plus, it was lunchtime so I was thankful our driver from BookMeBus.com pulled in for what I thought was going to be a quick stop at a roadside cafe. Boy, was I wrong. My cousins and I walked in to what looked like a regular store and coffee bar in Cambodia. That’s where “regular” went out the window. Wide-eyed we stepped out on the wooden planks of the covered dining area to an unexpected paradise.
The convenience store opens up to a serene setting of tiki huts on stilts in the water connected by wooden boardwalks. There’s a calmness, a one with nature, a true zen feel to this rest stop.
My cousins and I were led out to one of the huts. It was our own private dining room on the water, complete with two hammocks. We ordered and I took off to take a couple of pictures from out on the boardwalk, while two of my cousins quickly jumped into the hammocks.
From the boardwalk I had a great view of some pink lotus waterlilies. Wanting to know more about the importance of this flower in Buddhism, I did a little research. In Buddhism, the lotus flower represents a symbol of enlightenment. It’s symbolism is three-fold. The first is literal as the flower rises and blooms out of muddy water to symbolize rising above the murk to achieve enlightenment. The second meaning, and tied closely to the first, is purification. As it blooms above the murky water, it represents the purifying of the spirit which is born into murkiness. The third meaning deals with faithfulness. Those working to rise above the muddy waters need to be faithful followers. The colors of lotus flowers symbolize different things in Buddhism. Red means compassion and love. Blue symbolizes common sense. Purple represents spirituality and mythicism. Gold represents all achievement of all enlightenment. The pink lotus is sacred. It is the supreme lotus representing the history and historical legends of the Buddha. It represents Buddha himself. Bet you didn’t think you’d get a lesson in Buddhism from rest area but that stop inspired me to learn more.
The Batheay Rest Area sits on fertile ground between the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers. The area is renowned for its knifefish and deep fried tarantulas and crickets. No, I didn’t have any of those but I did enjoy a mango smoothie and vegetable fried rice in a pastoral setting. The food was good and I love they built a restaurant with minimal impact to the nature environment.
After lunch we perused the shop filled with snacks and souvenirs then made a quick restroom stop before hitting the road again. The bathrooms were clean and most stalls had actual toilets. That’s a luxury in Southeast Asia as a lot of gas stations, roadside stops, and public restrooms just have a ceramic pot in the ground or just a hole in the ground. If you ever find yourself on National Road 6 between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, make sure to stop for lunch at Batheay Rest Area.