After we busted a move out of our
asylum hotel, we were relieved to be given a warm welcome at the hotel around the corner. Fresh fruit and a front desk clerk who carries my backpack up four flights of stairs is always a good sign of a decent hotel, right? Another sure sign Battambang was going to be good to us (despite the rain) was the most wonderful cafe we ducked into to avoid the downpour around lunchtime. Maybe it was because all I had to eat were some roasted bananas at a rest stop on our way the day before, but I was elated over an extremely delicious Mexican coffee (who knew?!) and a fresh Greek salad. Oh, and the cream cheese filled wontons didn't hurt either.
After a lazy lunch, we phoned up a tuk tuk driver and made our way to see the bats. This is really all I was prepared to see, I naively thought the name "Killing Cave" was related to the bats, not the Khmer Rouge. Despite our "guide" unable to speak English, I quickly picked up on what the caves (more than one) were used for. We walked through a Buddhist wat to get to the trail leading back to at least one of the caves. From what I've gathered online, part of the wat contained a hall where people were kept until they were killed. It's a strange, strange feeling to face so many skulls lined up in front of you. There are so many more at the Killing Fields outside of Phnom Penh, but it leaves you with the same disgust at the atrocities the Khmer Rouge got away with. "This feels wrong." Andrew said, closing up his camera. And I agreed, but responded "Don't you think people need to see this, though?" Until I visited Cambodia, and bought a bootlegged copy of "First They Killed My Father" I had no idea who Pol Pot was, let alone what the Khmer Rouge did for so many years. I am the first to admit that I used to automatically associate Angkor Wat with Cambodia, when really there is so much more to this country… So, I guess this is my way of apologizing for some morbid pictures that I took, not to be a tourist, but to share what I'm seeing and how wrong it was to have happened. And perhaps, similarly, happening elsewhere today.
After the Killing Cave, we biked further up Phnom Sampeau to see the view and the wat at the top. Monkeys tried to shake the last drop of coke out of a can, or steal bags from tourists. I tend to shy away from the monkeys after a bad experience in Bali, we also couldn't stay long because we didn't want to miss the bats flying out of their cave for their night feeding. Had our guides told us the bats fly out of the cave for a solid hour, we wouldn't have rushed back down the hill.
There was already a steady stream of bats flying out of the cave when we got down to the base of the hill. I was expecting more of a grandiose viewing than the one we had. Not that it wasn't impressive, because it was… But we were further away than I had anticipated, and while I didn't expect to reach out and be able to touch a bat or two, I thought that it would be a little more scary than looking up and saying "Oh that's cool… I guess…" as thousands of bats flew in a steady stream out to the fields to (hopefully) gobble up any and all mosquitoes in their path. We watched for ten minutes or so, took pictures of far away bats, and then climbed in the tuk tuk to go back to the center of town just before it started raining again.
On our way back to town, our driver asked if we minded if he stop at home to change his clothes. We said sure, and were welcomed into his wife's family home to look at his wedding photos while we waited for him to change. We have now come to hesitate when situations like this one arise, not sure if his family sells something out of their house and we'll be expected to buy one or two, or if it's a ploy to make us commit to a few more days with him as a driver. We sat and looked through his elaborate traditional Cambodian wedding photos, while his wife cut up some fruit for us, and he changed his clothes. He thanked us for giving him a job today, and then my heart melted and I immediately felt like a terrible person for wondering what his motivation was for bringing us to his home. When he dropped us off, we made loose plans to see him tomorrow, and he gave us his journal full of testimonials about what a great driver he was from other passengers. We said goodbye, and I immediately started thinking of cheesy jokes to write in his journal for him to use on his next passengers. (That was kinda his schtick)
Where we slept:
What I spent: