Bat Caves in Battambang
Battambang is a small town in Northern Cambodia, and just a few hours bus ride away from the popular Siem Riep. Battambang is overlooked by many travelers, but it actually has many attractions and some interesting sights to see. The locals in Battambang are friendlier then in the more touristy places, and accommodation is very cheap. I booked a very nice hotel room for about ten dollars USD.
As I only had one day in Battambang, a friend and I rented a tuk- tuk to show us all the sights. Our first stop was at the Bamboo Train, which is an old-fashioned railway track and platform which takes you to a local village. The train hurls along the rusty tracks for about ten minutes, which can be quite scary as there are other people coming back in the opposite direction. When this happens, everyone gets off and the two drivers lift the ‘train’ off the tracks to wait for the other to pass. When you reach the village, the children are very persistent in asking you to buy their goods. At the end of the tour, the men managing the train ask (very forcefully) that you give a tip to ‘the driver’, which I am fairly sure just goes back to the boss.
The next stop was a vineyard, which wasn’t half bad. We sampled all different kinds of wine and whisky. There was also a honey/lemon/ginger drink that was delicious.
When sunset was nearing, we drove to a mountain where the bat caves were located. As it wasn’t evening yet, we had time to go up the mountain. The tuk-tuk couldn’t make it, so we hired two motorbike drivers to give us a ride up. At the top, there is a beautiful wat, home to many buddhist monks. If you walk outside and follow the steps down into the bottom of the limestone cave, you can enter the killing caves. This was an atrocious place used by the Khmer Rouge to dispose of their victims. The cave is very large from the outside, and in the middle there is a large gold Buddha. While we were there several monks were praying in silence. The cave is truly chilling. Bones are piled in the corners and mountains of skulls are encased in a glass box. Looking up, there is a large skylight where the men, women and children who were killed by the Khmer Rouge were thrown. My motorbike driver told me he had family who this had happened to. With Cambodia’s tragic and very recent past, I found that many Khmer have similar stories.
When we had made our way back down the mountain, it was time to see the bats exit their cave to forage for food. We stood with tourists and locals alike, waiting as the noise from the cave got louder and louder. Suddenly, the bats exited the cave at once. It was truly an amazing spectacle of nature seeing a reported 3 million bats exit the cave at once. As we drove home, our driver pointed out the bats along the skyline. We followed them home in our tuk-tuk, watching the huge black mass fade away as the sun set.