Since this was my only day in Battambang today, I decided to take a stroll around the city. But I also heard about the bat cave, which I really did not want to miss. At the reception I met Paul, he had planned the day tour for today. Since I wanted to see the city in the morning and the tour is cheaper for two people, he has changed his plans and booked the half-day tour with me.
Battambang is located about 290km northwest of Phnom Penh. In 2008, the city had around 180,000 inhabitants. In the 19th century, the province of Battambang was temporarily part of neighboring Thailand. Only in 1907 it was returned to Cambodia under the pressure from the French colonial power. Economically, the province of Battambang is considered the "rice basket" of Cambodia. Due to the fertile soils, farmers sometimes earn two rice crops a year. The income in the province of Battambang is therefore higher than in other regions of Cambodia. Rice surpluses are marketed within Cambodia and exported abroad. In addition to rice cultivation, fruit (orange) and vegetable cultivation play a major role for the farmers. Tourism, unlike in Siem Reap, does not matter here (yet).
Around 10:00 am I set out to walk all over the city. Street up, next street down, etc. ☺️ As I said, the city is really not yet touristy. Even though, being quite different looking, but you are never stared at. Something that can be very exhausting in other Asian countries (as well as in Male, for example). Here in Cambodia, people do not care about it and I think that's great 😁
At 14:30hrs we went on our tour. What I found especially sweet was the reaction of our TukTuk driver when he learned that I'm from Switzerland. Immediately he began raving about Dr. Beat Richner. How much he has done for Cambodia. Hes considered like a god in the eyes of Cambodians. This is something I have heard a few times now during my time here. Cambodians idolize Beat Richner and seem therefore quite excited to meet Swiss.
After the short introductory round, we first visited the Bamboo Train (Norry). The rail taxis with the name Norry are an improvised means of transport in the area around Battambang. For tourists Norries are touted as "bamboo train", whose operation is now organized and supervised by the local tourist police. In the 1980s, the first wood-built self-built railroad taxi was used on the battered, former colonial route of farmers who earn a living as drivers of the Norries. The rail taxis resemble trolleys with a loading area of about 3.5 by 2 meters on a biaxial metal frame, driven by a 6-hp gasoline engine.
The rail taxis are necessary to transport people and loads in remote regions. A timetable and right of way rules exist meanwhile, was driven before always, if the rail taxi was busy. When two Norries meet on the single-track routes, the lighter of the two is unloaded and taken off the rail. Even a Norry that encounters two consecutive runners is taken off the rail. On parts of the train, the Norry closer to the last railway station will have to drive backwards when meeting another Norry on the way.
The experience was .... interesting. When we arrived at the Bamboo taxi, we were once again $ 5 buttoned off for the ride. We were told the ride would take 1h. Well, it was maybe 20min. 😏 The ride was loud. Very loud. The thing was chattering and rattling as if there was no tomorrow. 10-15min. in one direction, through rice fields which were quite nice. At the end of the track, a few small stalls waited for the tourists to sell souvenirs. Fortunately, this was not intrusive at all. There I also got my first ring from a man. An approximately 10 year old boy made me a ring of banana leaves. Really cute 😁 Yes, and then the ride went back the same way, with a big roar. That's it 😂 Well.
Next, we drove with the TukTuk to the bat cave. On the way, our driver stopped out in the nowhere at a small dining stand. We should look at the grill. There was something grilled on a stick and something curly beside it. 🤔 Barbecued rats on a stick and grilled snakes 🤤 Unfortunately, I was not hungry at the moment and so I cannot say how they taste🙈😂 He explained to us, that at the time of the Khmer Rouge, nothing more was available for food. So the people had to look for alternatives and found them in the rats. Understandable.
Because we were a bit too early at the 'Batman Cave', we climbed the hill there to enjoy the view. The country is incredibly flat. I had imagined that differently.
Yes, and at sunset, around 17.30hrs the 'Big Show' kicked off. Around 40 plastic chairs were lined up on the little lane facing the cave. Street vendors selling lemonade from their orange coolers and there was a certain amount of excitement in the air. You could already hear the screaming sounds of the bats. And suddenly you see them flying in the cave. A black spiral rose from the cave into the sky and swept over the viewers. An incredible spectacle. Everyone seemed enthusiastic about the magic of the bats. There are about 5 million (!!!) animals leaving the cave each evening at sunset (this takes about 40 minutes) to look for food in the fields. At about 5:00hrs in the morning the animals return to the darkness of the bat cave.
Once the show was over, we drove back to Battambang with stunning views of the sunset.
Have a look here at the pictures of this trip.