Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016
We went to our usual breakfast place in Battambang before I taped up my blisters to prepare for another walk around town. We’d have plenty of time to relax in the room before our afternoon trip on the Bamboo Train (also called a “norry”), followed by a visit to the bat temple.
Around 2 pm, we met Scorpio, as well as two Chinese tourist (a mother and her daughter), who would be joining us for the ride to the Bamboo Train. Neither of us had much interest in partaking in this tourist attraction, but at least it helped out the locals. After paying $5 each for the ride, we were told to sit on the cushions that were resting on top of the bamboo platform, which was laying on top of barbell-like bogies connected to a go-kart motor.
The bamboo train travels 50 miles per hour (80.5 km/hr) across misaligned rails over bridges left by the French colonists. It takes about 20 minutes each way, and we had to stop in the middle of the railway to let a car passing in the opposite direction go through. As the conductor removed the norry piece by piece, we stood in the heat making small talk with a guy who was wearing a suit and an “Indiana Jones- style” hat who had been sitting on the car in front of us.
We stopped in the village of O Sra Lav and the first thing I purchased was a bottle of water. It was hot out! While cooling off, I was approached by a little boy and girl who wanted me to buy their bracelets.
Me: “Those are lovely, but I’m not really interested in buying anything else at the moment.”
Girl: “Well if you decide to buy any bracelets, you have to promise me you’ll buy them from me. Promise?”
Boy: (looking disappointed that he was losing a sale to the girl) “Me too! Promise?! Promise?!”
Me: (overwhelmed and afraid the boy might start to cry) “Okay! Okay! I promise.”
After browsing through the shops, we sat down to split a fresh coconut and talked more with Greg, the Indiana Jones guy. As we returned to the train, a lady proudly showed me that her grandson was on the t-shirts they were selling. She was over the moon with this, which I found incredibly sweet. We would have to make another stop mid-trip to let a train pass through before tipping the driver and returning to Scorpio’s tuk tuk.
Next stop was Phnom Sampeou, or the bat temple. We passed through the village, then walked up the steep steps to the monastery.
There were many monkeys and tourists wandering around at the top, and one of the monkeys stole a water bottle and started chewing on it.
We returned to ground level, and had a beer with Greg and his tuk tuk driver as we waited for the bats to leave their roost. Greg was an American from Philadelphia who I gathered came from a privileged background. He was going to university in Ireland, but decided to drop out without informing his folks, and headed over to Cambodia on a business visa. We shared all the weird things we had eaten in other countries and chatted with Greg’s driver until the bats started pouring out of the cave.
I have never seen so many bats before in my life! I saw a roost of bats in Austin, Texas during our late road trip, but nothing quite as incredible as this! One of the locals kept making a loud “shh!” noise, and the bats responded by spreading out quickly before condensing again.
This would also happen whenever an engine fired up or the tires of a tuk tuk squeaked. Scorpio took us back the the hotel and we got a picture with our Chinese companions before saying goodbye.
We wished Scorpio luck on accomplishing his dream, and then headed over to “Coconut’s” for dinner. I got Beef Lok-lok and Trevor got Mushroom Amok, a steamed curry. I enjoyed a beer as I watched a gecko struggling to eat a bug that was crawling on its head. The day had turned out to be much more fun than we anticipated.
Jump Back to Part 8: Chills at the Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus
Jump Ahead to Part 10: Pub Street, Beggars & Capital Cities
Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Tips, Hotel Swap & Cheap Beer in Phnom Penh