A Travellerspoint blog

City, country and mountains

sunny 36 °C

We’ve have had the BEST day today!!
Miracle morning has made it to day three 😊. All be it a little later this morn due to some sleepy kids.
After brekkie we were picked up by our tour guide Kim. I had found him on the Cambodia Facebook page after someone else recommended him. Luckily for us we’re travelling in low season so he was available to take us for the day.
It is such an amazing experience having someone local show you their home town. We started with a city tour and learnt a lot about the history of Battambang - and it’s not a happy tale. Yet another side to Cambodias sad past. So different to the history books. Kim’s mother and father both lost their first spouses in the Pol Pot era, and many of their family members too.
We learnt about the French colonisation. Whilst they probably overstayed their welcome, they helped build Battambang into a city, building the market place, houses, roads (I took a photo of the boys in the tuk tuk on the first road - named Road 1!)
After the French left, Cambodia had what Kim called the “Golden Times”. People were happy and had good jobs. This only lasted for 16 years when Cambodia was caught up in the Vietnam/American war, then came Pol Pots. Such a short time of peace! I asked Kim if they were in a “Golden Time” now, and he said no. While you are not allowed to speak badly of the government, it appears the current government is the same same as the Khmer Rouge only with a different uniform.

We learnt the legend of the magic stick man. A large statue which we would have just driven by and admired if not for Kim’s entertaining story telling.
After the city tour, we headed to the country. Today is our hottest day yet - 36 degrees and felt even hotter. The best place (if you can’t be in aircon) is in an open tuk tuk with the breeze hitting your face. Or…. The original bamboo train!! There is now a new one which is more widely marketed, but owned by the Chinese - so we were glad to support the local one. The boys bought friendship bracelets from two young girls. There have been signs around saying not to buy off children as it encourages them to not go to school - but is Saturday, so surely it’s okay?! Then we were on our way. We thought we might be pushing it along with a stick like they did originally, but after assembling the “train” a wee motor was placed on the back and with the help of a stick - it came to life. It went much faster than we expected, passing farms, rice fields, a wee bridge and cows. It’s a pretty quiet track, but it was like the cows saw us coming and decided it was a good time to cross?!? One only just made it across, though I think we may have clipped his back foot 😬. Quick drink stop at a local village then back to the start - so fun!
Back on the tuk tuk and Kim showed us what the locals grow stopping at many farms to show us green oranges, bananas, pineapples (we’ve been trying to tell Reed that they grow from the ground, and now he finally believes us!), grapefruit, papaya, dragon fruit, mushrooms, “bat shit chilli” (none of us were brave enough to try it), lotus flowers and insect traps (for eating).
A few things we learnt:
They use every part of the banana plant - the flower, the root, the trunk, the leaves.
Lotus flowers have fruit! And they also use every part of the lotus plant.
A Japanese not for profit group has been teaching one village to grow mushrooms - the process is fascinating and there is good money to be made.
The government is the only place rice growers can sell their rice to - and they don’t pay well.

Next stop a swinging bridge. The bridge was only built in 2007 by a Swedish no profit who saw that the only way locals could cross the river was by swimming! Now it’s used by foot, motorbike and even our tuk tuk made it… just!!

It was time for lunch and we asked Kim if he could recommend a place and join us - he took us to Nary Kitchen and the food was sooo good! They do cooking classes, and we would have loved to do this - but we leave tomorrow - bugger! The owner was such a nice man.

We headed down “massage road” - very bumpy on our way to the Bat Cave. On our way, Kim stopped so we could watch some locals catching dinner - he caught crabs, snails and very small fish. Carl said he’ll definitely be looking at his snapper hauls differently going forward.
We also saw locals setting up their bbqs for dinner - on the menu was rat 😬😬😬. They catch the rats from the rice fields, not the city - apparently they don’t have diseases - though none of us were game for testing this out!!
We first walked up “Boat Mountain” another legend told to us by Kim, to the Killing Cave. Yep, exactly what you’re thinking - a horrific site where people were starved, tortured, then sat at a an opening above a large cave, hit with a stick and pushed in. So so awful. Although I didn’t take the boys to the killing fields in Phnom Penh, they wanted to come here. They have been hit with such a mass of information today and I could see their brains trying to process. Our kids are so incredibly lucky to know nothing about war, but now also lucky to be able to see how it can come about, and how it devastated so many lives.
By now it was nearly sunset, so Kim took us past the many people (and monkeys) who had come to see the bat cave. We went around the other side of the mountain (a secret entrance), climbed a little, and made it just in time to see the setting sun - the sky was beautiful!
In the distant hills we could see black ball shapes - groups of bats ready to hunt!
Then it was our turn, beside us millions of bats started exiting their cave - they kept coming and coming - it was magical! It was starting to get dark, so we climbed down the hill to our ride - bats were still flowing out, soaring above our heads now.
A local family cleans the bat poo every fortnight and sells it to farmers for fertiliser. Farmers also love the bats because they eat all the insects. So while you could once eat bats, they are now protected (though apparently there is a black market!).

On our way home we watched an electrical storm in the distant clouds.

We said goodbye to Kim, we were all so grateful for him sharing his town, legends and history with us.

Back home for a quick dinner, some more soccer (though Jay has the biggest blister on his toe from yesterday!) and bed in preparation for our early morning and huge day of travelling tomorrow.

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Posted by travelswithmum 12:50 Archived in Cambodia

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