Siem Reap to Battambang is our second Cambodian bus journey of the trip. This one lacked the customer service and comforts of our first journey but is generally OK and unremarkable except for the fact that at the halfway point when it stopped to allow people to take comfort breaks, it then drove off (complete with my wife and all our belongings) not to return for 20 minutes!
Our Siem Reap hosts had recommended seeing the bat cave, so having secured the services of an English speaking tuktuk driver for our stay in the city, we get him to take us out of the town to a large limestone outcrop on a journey that is on some pretty bumpy and dusty roads. Entertaining in basically a wheelbarrow attached to a motorbike.
The limestone is host to a number of caves. Sadly, one of which was home to another one of the 300 Khmer Rouge execution locations. As with Phnom Penh, there is a prison and a ‘killing area’. This time the former was housed in a temple not a school (the regime felt that religion was as unnecessary as education), and the latter was located at the entrance to a cave. They didn’t bother burying the bodies here, instead they were just pushed into the cavern below.
Today both of these locations have been re-used, with the temple regaining its original purpose and a smaller temple built inside the cave that is now accessible via some steps. It is still a haunting location, with a small Stuper holding the remains that were found a harsh reminder of what happened nearly 40 years ago.
The ‘killing cave’ is located at the top of the outcrop and access is either by 1000 steps or on the back of a moped. We lazily went for the latter, but the steep road makes it a hair-raising experience and we are glad when the drivers drop us at the side of the road to join an ever growing throng of tourists and tuktuk drivers staring up at another cave.
Then just as the sky starts to turn to dusk, we get to witness an extraordinary, albeit a smelly, sight. Over a period of 30 minutes more than 3,000,000 bats pour out of the cave in a black river stretching across the sky into the distance, where they swarm in the fading light over paddy fields looking for food. Its captivating to watch, and another example of where the “don’t look up with your mouth open” advice is needed, as we hear the cries of mild anguish from other tourists that managed to get a bonus souvenir of bat excrement dropped on them.