A picture story of my short trip to Battambang, Cambodia. What a hidden gem! AND not as ‘touristy’ as Siem Reap.
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The goal was the tomb-raiding temples of Siem Reap…I didn’t get that far. Why Siem Reap? Two words… Angelina Jolie. She first got me interested in Cambodia and her love for the people and culture when she visited way back in her Tomb Raider days. And boy, was she right about this beautiful country.
Of course I did the research and found all the temples that she filmed in Siem Reap. I had no idea how I would get there but I figured it couldn’t be that difficult right? Just catch a sneaky getaway on a visa run from Thailand?! (I was living here for 6 months)
Listen To a Local
I arrived at the border and meet my agency who mentions that no-one is driving up to Siem because it’s a longer journey. If I need to get to Siem Reap, I’d have to go further up north to get to another Cambodia border and take a taxi from there. He says he knows a nearby town that’s a little gem called Battambang that I can explore for less the cost! The temples are just as beautiful. So I thought, why the hell not?
Trust Your Instincts
I got lost in Battambang for 2 days and it is the most memorable time of 2016. I got out of my comfort zone, trust my gut and fell in love with the friendly people, the rural village life, the old temples, the culture and I managed to learn a bit from a Buddhist Monk.
Smile and Nod 🙂
I politely crossed the border with a Cambodian taxi driver who had one tooth and didn’t understand or speak a word of English. He rattled on in Khmer and I grinned and pretended I knew what he was saying…
While I waited in the taxi for him, I looked around me and quite frankly, I was disgusted. Cambodia is dirty. As in D.I.R.T.Y. I don’t think the town streets have ever been cleaned. There were piles of dirt and plastic while the kids walk around barefoot. My heart broke and hoped that the rest of Cambodia didn’t look like this. Luckily, It didn’t.
I waited about 30 min until the taxi driver eventually got into the car, along with boxes of stuff, a granny and her two young grandkids. One of them vomited the whole way to our destination, as she had never been in a car before.
Stay at a Hostel
I finally arrived at a hostel called Here Be Dragons. I picked it because I liked the name and it was affordable 😉 I stayed overnight and turns out the food and beer was great and I had a decent sleep and hot shower so I was happy! 🙂
Hire a Tuk Tuk Driver for the Day
I decided to get lost and found a tuk tuk* driver who took me around to the different hot-spots of Battambang. It was such an amazing day!
Visit Phnom Sampov Mountain Bat Cave and Killing Cave
This cave is home to around 5 million bats and I was so happy to catch them as soon as they come out, which is sunset. You can slightly see the bats to the right of the cave in the sky.
The killing cave of Phnom Sampeau was a place on top of the hill where mainly Chinese and Vietnamese were tortured and/or put to death by marxist Cambodian communists in the Khmer Rouge era in the 1970’s. They would throw these ‘slaves’ into a pit, where they would land into an underground cave and left to die. I went inside and it was pitch dark and eery. There were cages with real skeletons in them, piles of bones laying there and on the other side of the cave sat a golden reclining Buddha serving as a memorial. I wish I could’ve gotten decent pics. Some of the images and statues I couldn’t photograph as they were so graphic. Game of Thrones shit.
See the View of Battambang
From the Bat Cave, there are many drivers who will offer to take you up the mountain on a scooter (at a fun speed I might add) to see the killing cave and another temple at the top of the mountain where a Buddhist monk will happily greet you. The Monk invited me to see the view of Battambang. After seeing the killing cave, this was a sight for sore eyes! What a view!
Visit Wat Ek Phnom Temple
This was a mini Siem Reap for me! It was beautiful, green, peaceful and I got lost in-between the temple stones and tall trees. The Buddha statue was overwhelming and I felt minuscule staring up at this majestically sun-lit piece of history.
Climb the Stairs to Reach Bannan Temple
I reached the stairs. Paused. Looked up at this 400 meter high mountain, and thought I’d never make it. Maybe Lara Croft can do this shit but me? It was thousands of steps and kind of daunting! Nevertheless, I was determined to see what was at the top of those stairs. Surely all these steps were built like this for a reason.
I finally reached the top, looking like a very unsexy Lara Croft with a Hijab and downed about a litre of water until I got my breath back.
I climbed into this temple like I just crossed into another time zone and realised why they had built these 5 towers on top of this hill… the view. Similarly built to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, the historic beauty and the irony of this temple is amazing. This place was built for peace and tranquility, yet there are cannons on each side of the hill, which was used to fight and defend themselves in the war.
Today there are brightly lit incense and offerings in the temples. To go back to the 11th century, was well worth the climb!
After site-seeing the whole day, we headed back after sunset. I tilted my head back, smiled and watched the brightly lit sky covered in stars while listening to my driver’s traditional Cambodian music. The kind of happiness that you can only experience when traveling alone.
I learnt from this trip that there are no such things as flaws. It’s a man-made word to me now. The imperfect, ruined temples were uniquely perfect in their own way. Anyone can apply that into their life. You are beautiful the way you are, ‘flaws’, imperfections and all! Stop trying to be perfect, it doesn’t exist in human nature…
Until next time Cambodia,
*If you would like to tour around Battambang please contact Tuk Tuk Chet Tour on (+885) 093 37 37 91 or email firstname.lastname@example.org