To the Bat Cave!

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Asia » Cambodia » North » Battambang
March 28th 2016
Published: April 12th 2016
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Tina Writes

We decided to visit one last place before leaving Cambodia. Battambang is kind of like a small city. We took a bus which cost about £5 each and took 3 hours. I had some trouble finding a nice hotel, so I chose the nicest I could see within a decent price range and booked the King Fy Hotel for £20 a night including brekkie.

When the bus pulled into the ‘station’ , a dozen tuktuk drivers surrounded the bus, chasing it as it tried to park, holding up signs against the windows with the likes of ’50 cents to any hotel’ written on them. I thought we would end up getting one of these but when we got off there was a driver standing with my name on a sign. I hadn’t booked a pick-up, nor had I told the hotel how and when we would be arriving. We went with him and when we got to the hotel the driver explained that he picks up new guests for free in the hopes they will book a tour with him. He made it quite clear we were free to decline and would not be charged anything but as we were here to do the tours he was offering and he spoke very good English, we made a deal. We were only here for two nights and it was still quite early, so we arranged to do the Bamboo Train at 4pm that day once we had freshened up.

We checked in and I was pleasantly surprised with the hotel. A bit dated but you can’t complain at £20. I was expecting it to be horrible.

We headed out, met our driver and off we went to the Bamboo Train. On the way the driver stopped now and then to point out things of interest and explained them to us. One of the stops was to at a shop where he pointed to the various cooked meats on a stick and said ‘rat’. Yup, cooked rat - a hangover from the Khmer Rouge. People were literally starving and they had to eat anything they could, so rat it was and after the fall of the regime, they carried on eating it.

We arrived at the Bamboo Train, which is basically now just a tourist attraction. Here are train lines left over from French rule that the local people used by constructing a bamboo platform on train like wheels and powered by small engine. We paid $5 each and hopped on board. You just sit on the bamboo with a little pillow to soften and off you go. It reached some speed I tell you. It was quite bumpy as the rails are really warped now. I did fear we would derail any second. I had read that when you meet another ‘train’ head on, whoever has the least passengers has to get off and help move the ‘carriage’ of the rails to let the other past. We didn’t meet another ‘train’ on the way there. We arrived at the end and got off to find a few huts selling t-shirts and drinks. We had a wee look around and Rob bought a t-shirt. Our driver signalled it was time to go and so we watched as he put the train back together and off we went with a suggestion from one the t-shirt sellers that we should tip our driver at the end as the money we pay for the ride is taken by the government or something. It was a bit slower on the way back as there was another ‘train’ in front of us and we met several ‘trains’ coming toward us but as were two trains, they had to get off and dismantle each time. It was all very good fun. Our tuktuk driver was waiting for us and we headed back to the hotel.

We had a quick dinner in the Skybar on the hotel roof. It’s such a strange hotel. The restaurant was full of staff but they all just sit and ignore you while on their phones and the guy choosing the music was like a kid in his bedroom. He would start a song, get bored of it and change it half way through to another song just to do the same thing. One of the nights we had dinner, the waiter took my order and them simply walked away from the table without taking Robs. It was bizarre. The first morning, breakfast was made to order from a small menu, the next day it was a buffet. They had a pool but it was unusable as it was festering God knows what in the murky green water.

Next day we had arranged for our driver to take us to the other sites Battambang has to offer. We visited a cafe/house that made spring roll from scratch including the rice paper used. We watched as she added the mixture onto a griddle just like a pancake and then they get dried out in the sun. We ate some spring rolls and then went to see rice wine being made, again in a little house/hut. It was very strong. I wouldn’t call it wine, it’s more like Vodka. Then we visited a ruined temple. When we arrived there was some sort of party going on at the Buddha and Stupa nearby. They were Cambodian Chinese people celebrating Grandparents day or something and they asked us to join them. We sat with them at their picnic and they offered us food and drink. There was a clear divide of women and men so I felt a bit weird sitting with the men. Also, there was no English spoken and they were all pretty drunk. They found us hilarious though. This is one of those times I am meant to say ‘oh yeah, like we totally had an amazing time, immersing ourselves in their culture and honoured that we were asked to partake in their sacred rituals. I felt like a real Cambodian and one of the family maaaaaaaannnnn’. Errrr nah! I hated it. I felt extremely uncomfortable and not only because I am incapable of sitting crossed legged. I felt rude for refusing the food they offered but I don’t want to eat rat! We said thank you after 10 minutes and made our exit toward the temple.

Next we headed back to the city and went for lunch and a chill out in the hotel before going back out again. We visited the Killing Cave. A cave where the Khmer Rouge took people and threw from a height down into a cave. It was a long, hard climb up in the heat and I had to get my Magicool out. Our driver came with us and explained everything as we went. We learned more from this guy about Cambodia in one day than we had the whole time we had been here. One of the other guides, who was friendly with ours, asked us where we were from. When I told him he shouted ‘CELTIC’ and then insisted on showing me a photo of a previous client in his CFC top. We reached the top and there was a Buddhist temple but the more interesting part was the very cheeky monkeys. Loads of them everywhere. We fed them a bit and watched them try and take stuff from people. One of them had an enormous belly. We thought it must be pregnant but it was really flabby. Our guide told us it was in fact a male and drank a lot of beer that the tourists give it.

We made our way back down the mountain for the star of the show. The bat cave! At 5.30pm every night, lots of bats emerge from their cave to go hunting. Our driver told us to stay in the tuktuk or we would get hit by bat pee. You could hear them in the cave which was high up on the cliff face and as 5.30pm struck they came flying out. Streams and streams of them. Whenever someone made a loud noise, the swarm would ‘flinch’ all at the same time so lots of people were shouting a ‘ssshhh’ noise to make them flinch. It looked amazing and we expected it to end quite quickly but it went on and on, seemingly never ending. Our driver informed us that there are 4 million of them!!! They started to tail off but we left before they had all finished leaving.

It was a good day and very informative. Our driver had agreed on a price of $20 in total for both days but we felt he was worth much more so we paid him $50.

This was our last day in Cambodia. We booked a bus to Pattaya for the next day costing $18 each.

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