|The view from the top of the mountain at Phnom Sampeau|
|“I can shooooow you the wooooorld…”|
If you’ve ever watched the film Aladdin, you’re familiar with the concept of a magical flying carpet. Well the bamboo “train” at Battambang isn’t quite as smooth or high-altitude a ride, but as you whizz through the countryside at around 20mph on a cushioned rectangle that only gives the front-seaters the luxury of a handrail, you get a bit of a flying carpet feeling.
As there’s just the one track, oncoming traffic seems like it would be a bit of an issue. But no! Fear not. For your speeding platform comes apart alarmingly easily, and can be lifted right off the track to allow other people to pass by. I didn’t have to get off my “train”, and instead rolled smugly by the other tourists slowly cooking in the hot sun.
A round trip on the train costs $5 a person (though perhaps allow a little extra to tip whoever is running your engine) and there’s a small market at one end where you can buy cold drinks and lurid tshirts. Expect to get mobbed by small children selling bracelets as soon as you arrive.
To see a video from the ride, hop over to my Instagram account @tabbyfortea and scroll down!
|Out of the way, traffic!|
Next up, the Killing Cave. Another grim reminder of the horrors of Cambodia’s recent history, the Killing Cave at Phnom Sampeau was used by the Khmer Rouge as a convenient place to kill victims. People were marched blindfolded to the top entrance of the cave and pushed down onto a particularly large and jagged rock below. Those who didn’t die immediately were then pushed off a second, internal ledge, in the hope of finishing them off.
|Shiny jazzy things|
The Killing Cave isn’t the only feature of Phnom Sampeau, which is also home to beautiful temple buildings and less-beautiful Buddhist sculptures… Such as the unfortunate women below.
There’s a small park-like display at the top of the mountain, between the temple and the cave entrance, which depicts the various unpleasant things that might befall you between lives if you earn yourself some bad karma in this lifetime. Into cockfighting? Perhaps you’ll spend time as a fighting cockerel yourself. Committed adultery? Maybe this man will spear you in the butt while you climb a really prickly tree.
Don’t worry though, because soon you’ll be reborn! You might be reborn as something rubbish, still having a terrible time. But you won’t be climbing that nasty tree anymore.
Last up before I retreated back to the town for fried rice and iced coffee, the bat cave! Bats are so great. The local people love these bats, because they eat little bugs called plant-hoppers that go around destroying rice crops. Thanks, bats.
Upwards of three million bats live here, and they’re pretty punctual when it comes to heading out to hunt. In the rainy season you can see them all leaving from 6.30pm, and in the dry season you can witness the spectacle from 5.15pm. It takes about an hour for them all to get out, so don’t worry if you’re running a little late getting back down from the top of the mountain.
There’s not exactly a wild nightlife in Battambang, but there’s great (and cheap) food and drink to be had at venues like Nary Kitchen, Coconut and Delicious. If you’re in the mood for western food, The Lonely Tree has a varied menu from tapas to cheeseburgers as well as decent local grub. Coconut also offer Khmer Cooking classes, which I didn’t try out but am reliably informed are great value and a lot of fun.