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Our last stop in Cambodia was Battambang. After that we would head back to Bangkok and end our Asia tour after nearly 9 months on the road beginning from Japan. But before leaving, Asia gave us one last hurrah with a few crazy stories and events.
We decided to take a tour of the area by hiring a tuk tuk driver for the day. He started by taking us to the famous bamboo train, which essentially is an old railroad that was used to transport goods but is now a tourist attraction. You get to ride on a bamboo cart and go about 50km/hr down a track – not bad! That is, until it started pouring, and we had no umbrella…Oh well, it was fun.
Afterwards, we decided to get to know our driver a bit better. It was almost as if he had been selected especially for us. For starters, he spoke Russian – a product of growing up in Cambodia in the 1970s. He had one of the most tragic histories we’ve ever heard. He lost both of his parents during the genocide. His father was a soldier for the previous government, and as a result executed when the Khmer Rouge came to power. His mother caught a sickness and passed away in the hospital. He recalled lying in bed with his dead mother overnight as he was now an orphan and has no where else to go. Somehow, he managed to survive with his younger sister. He took us to a spot in Battambang where executions were held, pointing to various places on the rock that were still stained with blood and talking about his experiences of having to evacuate Phnom Penh and leave to the countryside. After all we’d seen in Phnom Penh, it was really special to be able to take this tour with someone who actually lived through it all.
Surprisingly, the tour took a turn from somber to amazement as we approached a bat cave and waited for their nightly exit. Apparently, every evening around 5PM all the bats exit the cave in search of food. Quite suddenly, they just took off. At first, there were hundreds of them, and I was beginning to wonder how long this would go on for. I asked our tour guide how many bats he thought it was and he said around a million. I figured he just didn’t really know our number system, but then I asked how long it went on for and he said an hour. I thought for a minute, and the rate of bats I was seeing exit times a whole hour would probably be about a million bats! We hung around for 20 minutes and decided it was best to head out before it got too dark. As we drove away you could see the swarm of bats envelope the air – insane.
Finally, to end the night, we went to an acrobatic show in the area, which is run by a local NGO. Entertainment AND a good cause! This is the kind of stuff that makes me think “only in Asia…”