Tag Archives: Cambodia

Battambang – Bat Caves, Bamboo Trains, and Bandit Monkeys

So much happened in Battambang! If you don’t know, this is a small city in the northwest of Cambodia. For a place so far away¬†it sure does have a lot of fancy hotels. It worked well for us, as we got a sweet hotel for less than $15!

We hired a tuk-tuk driver for a couple of days and checked out all kinds of cool stuff. First we took a ride on the bamboo train. You can see what I mean in the photos below. This gave us a nice tour of the surrounding rice fields and countryside. During a break at the end of the line, Jon was bombarded with bracelet selling children! He ended up buying one from each of them!

For a half day we took a bike tour and checked out several local businesses, including:

  • Banana leather factory: a local family grows bananas, thinly slices them up, tightly placed them together, and lets them dry. This makes long roles of banana fruit leather! It is very tasty, cheap, and makes for great backpacking food
  • Rice wine distillery: well, it’s not really wine – it’s more like a rice based moonshine! The handmade distiller processes the rice starch into a potent, yet effective, alcoholic beverage
  • Fish patty processing: the locals bring a bunch of small fish, put them in barrels, press them down into a pasty substance, and after some time the fish are ready to eat. It may not be overly tasty, but it is nutritious

Another day we checked out a Buddhist temple on top of the only mountain in the area. From the top you can see for miles around at the rice fields. You’ll find a bunch of nice looking monkeys here, but beware; they really like water bottles and will grab them from the unwary traveller! The locals found an effective deterrent – sling shots!

Near this temple there is a massive bat cave. At around 5:30pm each night, bats stream out of the cave for 40 minutes straight! I’ve never seen anything like this before. You’ll see a photo below of a black streak in the night sky – these are all bats! Each night the bats swoop through the rice fields and eat up all the mosquitos and bugs. In the morning they cram back into the cave for their daily slumber. If you make it to Battambang, you MUST check this out. One tip though, do not stand in front of the cave entrance when the bats stream out, or else you’ll feel a stream of something else!

One other cool thing we did in Battambang was hire a kayaking company to bring us out-of-town, and then we rowed kayaks back. It was a chill two hours of paddling and enjoying the water.

As we left Battambang we weren’t finished with the river yet! The next destination is Siem Reap (the town near Angkor Wat). We decided on the scenic route to Siem Reap, and will take an eight-hour riverboat. Should be fun!

Cheers, Shawn

Photos by Jon Lang

Asia Trip – 2015

Phnom Penh – Quite a Mix

From the beach we headed to Cambodia’s hectic capital – Phnom Penh. We caught a bus from Thailand to Cambodia, and had an interesting time at the border. As we entered Cambodia, an official pointed a laser light at us for a “health check,” and asked for roughly $1. We then had the option of paying an additional amount for their express visa service, and once across were told we could wait around for 5 hours for our pre-booked bus, or pay an additional $10 for a bus that was about to leave. All these fees seemed rather fishy to me! But if you don’t pay, you’re stuck at a little border crossing in the middle of nowhere. As long as the facilitation payments are less than $20, I’ll tolerate it.

Anyways… we were finally on our way to the capital. To be honest, I had mixed feelings about Phnom Penh. We met many very welcoming and nice people, but the city has quite a rough feel to it. Albeit¬†understandably, as there is quite a lot of poverty in the area. The palace and temples in the city are very nice, and showcase the rich culture and history of Cambodia.

There are also two very dark, but worthwhile sites to visit while in Phnom Penh. First is the Killing Fields, a location where over one million people were murdered in the 1970s. This took place when the Khmer Rouge (a country inspired Communist revolution) held power in the country. The Killing Fields is now a memorial for the victims, and outlines the history in quite a respectful manner. The second site is the S21 Prison, where the Khmer Rouge held, tortured, and killed many people. Again, this is quite dark, but it’s important to remember the past so that we don’t repeat it. We don’t have photos of these two sites, as we thought it would be somewhat inappropriate.

Enough with the heavy stuff. While in Phnom Penh we took a day to check out some of the local markets and restaurants. The central market is packed, and has all kinds of stuff! The mango smoothies are to die for on a hot day, and cost less than $1! Later we stopped for dinner at a restaurant, and noticed a tank full of tarantula! If you’re adventurous, you can choose your preferred spider and have it cooked up in a variety of ways.

From the capital, we head northwest to Battambang!

Cheers, Shawn

Photos by Jon Lang

Asia trip – 2015