The bus arrived at 6:30 am in Battambang – the second largest city in Cambodia. The hostel had offered a pickup from the bus station, but there was no one to be seen. But there were a lot of quite aggressive tuktuk drivers around. I guess they had a deal with the bus company since where they kicked us out of the bus was for sure no bus stop and it was too far out to walk and they asked for unreasonable prices. At this time of day in such a remote area they were the only ones there, so they could do what they wanted. After a while of haggling I shared a tuktuk with 4 other guys to get at least into town. The driver brought two of them to their hotel and then asked for more money to bring the rest of us. Not what we agreed on! I decided to walk, since I hate to be ripped off. It was not that far anyway. Unfortunately it started to rain about half way. First just a bit but then it was pouring down. I had to seek shelter. Under the same tree there was a delivery guy on his motorbike who waited for his wife to bring him some rain gear. When she arrived by car she offered me to take me to the hostel. Super nice of her! The Blue Diamond Guest House was a bit outside the city center (still in walking distance though), but it was a very nice hostel and what you got for the price was amazing! There was a deal on hostelworld.com for a bed in the 12-bed dorm for only $1.46/night. I had booked a single room for the first night, but then moved to the 12 bed dorm. I had a tea to warm up and had a nap and a shower while waiting for the rain to stop. Then I walked into town.
Got some ointment for the mysterious wound on my arm that got bigger and bigger every day (probably a spider bite), had lunch on the market and went hunting for a new mobile phone (mine was about to die, the battery lasted max 2 hours). In the afternoon I enjoyed the swimming pool of the hostel,
later played pool with another guest and had dinner.
Next day I went on a day trip with an English couple via tuktuk. We first stopped at a place where they made banana chips.
We got a bag for free. Next stop was a crocodile farm none of us wanted to go to and we ended up not going inside. We got about 1 hour downtown to have a look around
before setting off to the famous bamboo train. It was a building site and only a little part of the original route was still there and that not in one piece. It used to be a one hour ride, but it was reduced to 15-20 min including a change. And that was half the time one way and the same way back. We still wanted to do it to have the experience, but they were trying to still charge the full price. We got them down from $5 to $3 per person. The bamboo trains looked a bit like handcars, just without the walking beam. Instead of that they had put motors on them. Before you set off and also when you have to change at the gap they take the motor out and build it in again and off you go.
On our way to the killing caves we tried some grilled rat.
It actually tastes really good! And no worries, they don’t eat city rats those are rats caught in the jungle and on rice fields.
The entry fee to the caves is $2. You can walk up – a beautiful way with lots to see including monkeys – or you can pay for a car or motorbike to drive you up (about $10). I walked up; the young English couple opted for the car. I enjoyed the movement.
The story behind this cave is very sad and distressing, like all the genocide sites in Cambodia. There are also temples and beautiful nature and a nice view though. About 1.5 hours later I met the others again at a bar at the bottom close to the Bat Cave of Phnom Sampov. When the sun set about 6:20 pm about 1 million bats were flying out of the cave. It is just amazing and I was awestruck by the sheer number of animals.
Definitely worth seeing it, although there are many people there to watch. local boy collecting lids of beer cans from the tourist with which you can win somethingAfter about 20 minutes the bats were all gone and they would only return when the sun rises again. Here the link to a video: https://youtu.be/S6v-y8fYUCs. On our way back to the hostel we had an engine breakdown. But our driver managed to fix it. Those guys can pretty much repair anything with the simplest tools; I am again and again amazed by that in Southeast Asia! I quickly brought my laundry to a place I had discovered the day before where they wash for 1000 Riel/kg (that is 25 cents). They were already closed, but two women were still busy behind the gate and they were so kind to take my stuff in anyway. On Friday I walked into town again
and went to the Human Gallery. It was run by a Basque named Joseba Etxebarria who took pictures of people while working on humanitarian projects and also while he was travelling for months by bicycle without any money. He really took time for his customers. When you arrived you first got some rice wine and then he started to tell the story behind the pictures. He knew the names and life stories of all the people he took pictures of and he also supported some poor kids and their families so that the kids can go to school. He is fighting for human rights all over the world. His stories were amazing and the pictures were too.
From everything you buy in this gallery part of the money goes directly into his projects to help people. I spent quite some time in the Human Gallery and bought a few postcards. Definitely worth a vistit! After that I finally got my new phone. The rest of the day I was setting up the new phone, got my laundry and did some administrative stuff. The next morning I had to get up at 6 am in order to catch my boat. The main reason why I came to Battambang: by boat on the Tonle Sap river and lake to Siam Reap. You can read about that in the next blog post.
The city of Battambang itself is nothing special, just another typical Asian city. But the landscape around is really beautiful and there are several things to do and see. It is definitely worth a stop!