What a amazing day I’ve had today, I’m having a lot of those !. Today I’ve done so much from visiting the local food market, looking at French colonial buildings, riding the Bamboo train express, climbing id say about 800 steps to a temple, oh and watching millions, yes literally millions of Bats fly out of their cave for their nights feeding outing…What a day…
Bernie was my Tuk Tuk driver and guide today, and what a lovely guy. Typical of all the Cambodians I’ve met, friendly, hard-working, courteous and maybe not had the easiest ride in life. Bernie like many Cambodians was brought up by his grandparents, I’m not sure exactly what happened to his parents. When his grandparents died he joined a local Pagoda (temple) as a “Temple boy” assisting the Buddhist monks. Here he spent 6 years, spending two hours a day learning English as well as working in a nearby restaurant to earn a wage.
Well he’s given up the waitering and now does an excellent job as part Tuk Tuk driver and part guide. He was soo! helpful with me today, despite having done “the course” many many times before.
This is how the day looked….
Stop 1. Local Market. A visual treat, Cambodians preparing fish, chickens, Fried Banana cakes and various meat to name but a few.
Stop 2. The Bamboo train. Introduced by the Colonial french to ferry goods between Battambang, Phnom Penh and all the way to Silhanoukville on the coast. The Bamboo train is pretty much extinct now, but they still run this tourist attraction to a local village, with a quick tour of the Rice and Brick factory, then head back for another 20 minute journey.
Needless to say the bamboo train is primarily made from bamboo sitting on two sets of easily removed wheels and powered effectively by a Lawn mower engine , and a good one too, as speeds of up to 30 mph can be reached!. This only added to my bone shaking after the Tuk Tuk ride. And yes it was a bit hairy, but such fun!! Meet the oncoming train and the Bamboo base lifts of the tracks together with the wheels, let the other one pass and back on goes the train…
Here I am looking good and a wee bit nervous 🙂
The view from the front at 30mph!
The lift up and remove Bamboo train.
My Guide in the Rice and Brick making factory. Interesting to see three different qualities of rice depending on how long they are grown, the larger the size of rice the better the quality and higher the price. Nothing goes to waste, the “shell” is then mixed with faeces (nice) to make compost. I’ll explain more later.
Take a look at the link for more info and video to show the speed…
Stop 3. The Golden gate bridge.
Paid for and built by the swiss “The Golden gate bridge”, oh yes just like it!, is one of many built to allow the locals cross the Sangker river, previous to the bridges the only way was to cross by boat, now pedestrians, bikes and of course mopeds can cross.
Had to show this one, this guy is off to a com fight with his prize cockerel…
Stop 4. Wat Banan Temple
A Buddhist temple, 20 Km out of Battambang, built between the 10th and 13th centuries. There is similarity with the towers at Angkor Wat. Complete with Tour guide of course. Every time you arrive at a tourist site you can guarantee there will be a youngster there to greet you, eager to tell you about the History, some better than others, in return for a tip. I usually succumb….
Stop 5 Rice Fields
Here you can See Bernie holding the Rice grass that has been picked, still mainly by hand, sometimes by machine, and then tied together. This will then be bashed against a rock to Knock the rice out. The owners of the land harvest the rice and get support from local farmers in return for food. showing a strong community spirit evident in the day-to-day work, with local communities supporting each other when needed.
Bernie then, a little late!, told me about Cobra snakes in the Paddy fields, I high tailed it to the Tuk Tuk! On that point we also saw nets hung between two posts. The purpose, to be lit by lights at night to attract cockroaches, crickets and even tarantulas, that can then be fried and eaten. You have to remember that this is a very poor area, and sometimes you have to hunt for your next meal, that may be very basic and simple, cooked within a more tasty sauce.
Stop 6 Phnom Sampeou Mountain, Pagoda, bat caves and the Khmer Rouge.
Some info about the Phnom Sampeou mountain.
“Phnom Sampeou is a natural site located along National Road 57 in Sampeou Commune, Battambang district, about 12 Kilometers of Battambang city. Atop a 100-meter-high mountain stands a pagoda and threee natural caves: Pkasla, Lakhaon and Aksopheak. Pkasla cave is full of uprooted stones and is considered important because it is where Phnom Sampeou residents come to celebrate after a marriage. ”
This is as close as you get to a mountain in a land where most of the terrain is 85% flat, There is a very steep climb to Wat Sampeou, where you pass a stunning sleeping Bhudda, carrying on past the Monkeys to the Pagoda. After that it gets a bit easier in on sense, you’re now on the flat, but its getter tougher to see the next stop, the Killing caves, where thousands of Cambodians were thrown to their deaths from the top of the cave. They stripped the Pagodas, removing the monks and took over the area in an ambition to remove all educated people, encouraging the people to have a “better” life working in the Fields and Agriculture. Of course it was not a better life, and its right that these locations now commemorate the innocent people who lost their lives.
Final stop the Bat caves. At 5.40pm approximately just as dusk sets in, everyone gathers around one particular cave. The preceding view was out of this world, suddenly bats, and were talking millions, started flooding out of the cave, and I say millions because this goes on for about forty minutes and its a constant stream. We then rushed round the corner on the Tuk Tuk just as the sun was setting to capture them flying over the mountain amidst a beautiful sunset.