Friday, 6 March 2015

Cambodia: Battambang

Next stop in Cambodia was Battambang, a little town not too far from Siem Reap. Despite being Cambodia's second most populous city, it has a real small town feel which we really liked after the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap, especially at New Year's. The city centre itself is quite compact and we walked around it all by foot in barely no time at all. After the 5 hour journey on a local bus which was an experience in itself, we arrived at our hostel, Chaya Hotel, which we had booked as a 5 bed dorm. What we actually got was a box room with 4 mattresses on the floor and two ceiling fans which looked like they might fall into our heads at any moment. Not ones to complain, we snuggled up on our giant floor bed and researched what we wanted to do that day.

We managed to hire a tuk-tuk for the day for around $12 between us all which was a bargain. First stop was the Bamboo Train (the  term 'train' being used loosely). It was literally a large bamboo platform mounted on train axles and was powered by a small go-kart engine. We sat on little pillows while our driver drove us down the track. The journey consisted of an hour of clickety clacking along misaligned tracks and very rickety bridges. It was a single line track so when two trains meet the one with the fewest passengers has to disassemble their train and move off the track for the other to pass. It was certainly an experience but a very fun one at that.

Next up we visited the Killing Cave of Phnom Sampov. From the outside you see beautiful lonesome caves in the Cambodian countryside but inside you learn of the tragic genocide horrors that occurred just a few years ago. The cave is located halfway up a mountain which is covered with beautiful temples and beautiful lookout points over the village below. There is a concrete road and looooooads of steps up the mountain and back down again which peek into caves - the most fascinating being the Killing Cave. The cave is huge inside, complete with a huge reclining golden Buddha lying across the whole cave. As you walk down the stairs into the cave, however, the atrocities that occurred in this spot become increasingly apparent. A massive cage full of bones catches your eye on one side of the room while on the other is another memorial of human remains in a glass box. The bones belong to all different types of people who were killed by the Khmer Rouge in the cave itself. At the top of the cave is the natural skylight which the Khmer Rouge marched people to, lining them up, then bludgeoning them and letting their bodies fall into the cave to eventually die. It's a really eerie place to visit but it really made us appreciate how lucky we are to have such freedoms in our lives. We didn't stay down in the cave too long because it made us feel really drained and uneasy so headed back onto the mountain track to get a glimpse of some more of the beautiful views around us.

After exploring the mountain for a while we headed back down to ground level to find the Bat Cave. At 5:30 every evening around 3 million bats fly out of the cave in the mountain into the wilderness before returning back 12 hours later. We're not the biggest fans of bats but this was actually pretty cool to see! 

The most exciting time in Battambang, however, was the decision by Rebecca to get her hair cut at a hairdressers. In typical Rebecca form, this was a spur of the moment idea. After a mini debate with the lady in the shop who barely spoke a word of English, she managed to agree a deal of $4 for a dry cut. Minutes later (speediest haircut in history) Becca emerged from the shop with inches off her hair, and unfortunately off her fringe too. And an inch is definitely a lot in fringe terms. See below for the transformation!

All in all, our whistle stop tour of Battambang was a pretty good one. We learnt a little about the French colonisation of the town and the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime, saw some pretty cool sights, and also got ourselves a well deserved rest after the busy few days in Siem Reap. Win!

Next stop - Phnom Penh!
Bamboo Train

Phnom Sampeau Temple

Phnom Sampeau Temple

Phnom Sampeau Temple

The bats leaving the cave
Beautiful Sunset

Nice Fringe Bec!

The Happy Wanderers

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