I take a minibus to Battambang. The four hour ride is cramped but not too bad. Once in Battambang I walk the mile out of town to the point where google maps tell me my guesthouse exists. There is an abandoned school here. This clearly isn’t it. After some research on the web, I find confirmation that google is indeed wrong, but I can find no info on the guesthouse’s true location.
After wandering back into town and asking numerous people I’m still no better off. I’m sweating my ass off and getting hungry. I’m having flashbacks to when I first landed in Mumbai and had no idea where I was going.
I pass a coffee shop and decide that I could use some caffeine and a snack. After placing my order I inquire with the staff. Luckily one of them knows the guesthouse of which I speak. He explains to me it’s a ways away and introduces me to a motorbike taxi guy that hangs out at the coffee shop. I finish my coffee and grab a ride with this guy.
Finally checked into my guesthouse, I call Sopha, a local tuk tuk driver that someone recommended to me when I was in Siem Reap. I tell him I want to visit the caves tomorrow. He says he’ll pick me up at 3:30pm. It’ll cost $12. Sounds good to me. I’m beat from wandering around in the heat, so I crash out early.
The next morning I borrow a bike from the guesthouse and ride around the city. Battambang is an interesting town, but doesn’t seem to have much to offer. I’m back at the guesthouse with plenty of time to order some food before Sopha is supposed to pick me up - or so I think. I have 45 minutes, no problem. I order some egg rolls.
At 3:30 Sopha shows up. My food still has not arrived. Damn. I apologize to Sopha and ask the reception if I can get the egg rolls to go. She’s apologizes and hurries back to the kitchen. I hear some squabbling in Khmer. I don’t know what’s being said, but I’m sure it’s about my food. Soon she returns with my to-go food. It’s not egg rolls though. It’s a soup. I inquire about it and Sopha helps translate between me and the woman. Turns out they are out of egg rolls! The woman swears the soup is good. I decide to just take the soup. Egg rolls would have been easy to munch down on a bouncy tuk tuk… this soup? Hmmm.
Surprisingly, I manage to down the soup with minimal spillage. I’m kinda proud of myself - it was a very bumpy ride.
We make it to Phnom Sampeau Mountain a little late. Sopha pulls into the parking lot and I pay my $1 entrance fee. Up at the top Sopha walks me around, shows me a temple, explains to me the paintings inside, etc. Then he takes me to the cavern known as the “Killing Cave”. This was one of many places the Khmer Rouge used to dispose of bodies. There is a small memorial there now.
Then we hike to the top of the mountain. Man. What a view. Most of Battambang is flat farmland, with the exception of the small mountain on which we stand, so you can see for miles. I’m actually caught off guard by the spectacular vista. Sopha points to another mountain in the distance, he says it’s called the crocodile, and relays an old fable about the history of that mountain and how it came to be.
Soon the sun is sinking low and we make our way down the mountain to the bat cave. Every day just before sunset, thousands upon thousands of bats fly from this cave to set out for their nightly feeding. It is quite a sight. I take some pictures, even some video, but neither do it justice. It’s something you have to see in person.
That’s it for Battambang. Now I’m off to the capital, Phnom Penh.