Our final stop in Cambodia before entering Thailand was the riverside town of Battambang.
It felt like a larger version of Kampot to us – again a very French influence.
Our main attraction during our two days here was a spectacle of nature which happens at dusk – more about this in a minute!
We rented out scooters again, and our first stop was to one of the world’s most unique rail journeys – a bamboo train (or Nori according to the locals).
Cambodia doesn’t have a working public train system (yet), so this was our first and only train expereince in the country – and it was so bizzare!
The ‘ train’ actually gets put together for you when you arrive – a 3 metre wooden frame, covered lengthwise with slats made out of ultra-light bamboo, which then rest on two huge metal bars, and a big old engine!
It goes pretty fast too – about 15km/hr apprently!
It whisks you through 7km of Cambodian countryside.
If you meet another group coming the opposite way, you have to all get off whilst the two drivers dissemble the ‘Nori’, the other group passes, the Nori gets assembled once again and off we go. We had to get off about five times during our trip.
I really didn’t know what to expect, and it certainly wasn’t a huge slat of bamboo speeding up a railway track, however it was great fun – you had a feeling of being on a theme park ride (but with no H&S of course)!
Our second stop of the day after lunch was to Phnom Sampov. It is a mountain with many cave systems and unfortunately a dark history.
The views from the top were impressive – probably the best in Cambodia.
The dark history of the mountain dates back to as recent as 1994 were Phnom Sampov was a battleground with government forces and the Khmer Rouge. There are some lingering signs of this past – two anti tank guns which have been left, and ‘the killing caves’.
In these caves the Khmer Rouge based an interrogation camp, and many of the unfortunate souls lost thier lives here by being thrown from the top of the mountain down into the cave. There is now a memorial shrine here, along with a large glass display case full with the bones of the victims.
Inside one of the caves we ventured into I suddenly heard lots of shouting from the guys. Paul had shone his torch onto the cave wall by his arm and was in for a shock (whereas I made a swift exit upon this discovery)…..
There are many beautiful things to see – a stone Budda face carved into the side of the mountain, and of course temples!
There were a family troupe of Macaque’s at the temples – i think they probably own the place. I spent such a long time photographing them – as they’re so used to humans you can watch them go about their daily business easily. It is so interesting watching their behaviour, and interactions within the troupe.
The main attraction however was at dusk, so we made our way to the bottom of the mountain, and waited along with many other tourists and locals for the main event to begin….
Bats! One million of them!
One of three caves in Phnom Sampov which contain colonies of the Asian wrinkle-lipped bat, and are thought to support over 6.5 million bats.
At dusk we were able to enjoy one impressive show that only nature can give. We waited from about 5pm, and you could hear the bats getting ready, maybe they were discussing who should go out first? About 5.45pm we saw then flying inside the mouth of the cave, then minutes later they were coming out – a thick black cloud of noise and hungry bats.
The column can be seen for a mile or so from the cave, it was just so amazing to watch. You had to watch it though – standing underneath over a million bats could mean only one thing – toilet time!
Seeing this natural spectacle will be on our list of highlights from the trip so far i’m certain of it – you can’t beat nature at it’s best!
A quick round up of Cambodia – so far the people have been the friendliest we have had the pleasure of meeting. So helpful and welcoming.
To see a country which has been through hell and back so recently, then to meet the people who seem so positive and welcoming, really made us feel completely in awe of them. They are inspiring people, and strong minded with such a sense of pride in their country. We have been truely impressed, considering all the corruption which takes place. We hope Cambodia continues to move forward through positive means, and hope that they don’t let tourism run riot, like in Vietnam and China.