Busy, busy, busy in Battambang today. We head off early for a full day of adventure. Whilst driving out of Battambang we come across this huge statue at the entrance to this city … Ta Dumbong.
Apparently, Battambang is named after the legend of a farmer who found a magic stick and used it to usurp the then-king. The king’s son ran off to the woods and became a monk.
In the meantime, Ta Dambong had a dream that a holy man on a white horse would vanquish him, so he decided it would be a good idea to have all the holy men rounded up and put to death.
When the prince, now a practicing monk, heard he was required to go into town a hermit came up and gave him a white horse. When the prince got on the horse he discovered it could fly and he flew into town. Upon seeing this holy man on a flying white horse Ta Dambong realised his dream was coming true, in an attempt to kill the ‘holy man’, he threw his magic stick at him, but seeing this fail he fled the area. Neither he nor the magic stick was ever seen again … I know the story didn’t make sense to me either … it is a nice statue though.
Next stop … The Bamboo Train. What a journey, the train runs from O Dambong to O Sra Lav via half an hour of clicks and clacks along warped, misaligned rails and old bridges built by the French.
Each bamboo train – known in Khmer as a norry (nori ) – consists of a 3m-long wood frame, covered lengthwise with slats made of ultra-light bamboo, that rests on two barbell-like bogies, the rear one is connected by fan belts to a little motor. We pile on and set off to the end of the line, it picks up quite a bit of speed (up to 50km/h) as we hang on.
What happens on this single-track line when another train comes from the opposite way is genius … one car is quickly disassembled and set on the ground beside the tracks so the other can pass. The rule is that whichever car has fewer passengers has to give way.
Loading Train On The Tracks
At the end of the line you are bombarded by stall holders who want you to buy there silk scarves, t-shirts, bracelets, etc. I settled for a iced coffee in a can from a very interesting chap.
This Charming Chap Sold Us Coffee
We head back to O Dambong to meet our Tuktuk drivers.
From the Bamboo Train our trusty Tuktuk drivers take us to Phnom Sampov but along the way you just never know what you might see.
Local Farmer Watering His Crops
Whilst enjoying some of the sights and sounds of the Battambang our Tuktuk driver made us this stylish hat made from lotus leaves to avoid the suns hot rays … I don’t think this fashion is going to catch on any time soon.
We arrive at Wat Banan, an Angkor era temple. The 500 steep steps up to the temple are supposedly worth the effort as there are stunning 360 degree panoramic views from the top but my injured knee means this is as far as I got.
Wat Banan Steps
We have lunch at a local cafe which is surprisingly delicious even though it only costs $1.50.
After lunch we now take the Tuktuk to Phnom Sampov, a striking limestone mountain and important religious site for all Cambodians. It has a Wat and many stupas and shrines.
One Of The Many Stupas
Phnom Sampov is also known as the Killing Caves a place of beauty, turned tragedy, turned beauty once more.
Whilst the descent into the cave is quite beautiful with rocks covered in green vegetation and low-hanging vines, once down in the large cave it becomes apparent at what happened there. At the bottom of the stairway there is a memorial full of human bones. At the top of the cave is the natural skylight which the Khmer Rouge marched people to, lining them up, then bludgeoning them and letting their bodies fall into the darkness below.
The Killing Cave
We finish this huge day by watching the millions of bats making their way out of the “bat cave”.
The Bat Cave