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Battambang in the monsoon rain

Bamboo train and Killing Cave

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Next stop was Battambang. We got a full crowd of tuk tuk drivers beckoning us off the bus when we arrived, the most I have ever seen touting for business. It's really overwhelming, but Jason said I'd just got to stay calm and remember that business and money is really important to them here in Cambodia. A guy name Spaniel (that's how we kept pronouncing his name anyway) grabbed our bags and took us to a nice, reasonably priced hotel. He also won our business for a day tour in his tuktuk the next day.

After a well rested sleep we woke up to torrential rain...boo! Regardless, we met Spaniel and went out for the day. First stop, the bamboo train. I was all geared up in my waterproof jacket, whereas Jason had given up on staying dry and opted for his swimming shorts. We boarded a rickety bamboo board with a motor; apparently its the only one of its kind and solved the old problem of meeting another train on a single track. Luckily we didnt have to do this in the rain, but the driver can dissemble the bamboo train and lift it off the track if another train needed to cross the track at the same time. We were soaked, but it was fun! Zipping down the line at about 15mph. At the end of the line there's a little village with souvenirs and cafe. The local kids speak amazing English as they try to sell you bamboo leaf grasshoppers and bracelets they've made. They will try anything to get a dollar from you (its quite sad really).

Unfortunately the rain had hampered plans for us to visit a Cambodian winery because the road was impassable. It's a shame, we were really looking forward to a nice glass of wine. We've not had one on our travels yet. So instead we went to the a hill top temple and the 'killing caves'.

The temple itself was nice, although not as impressive as some of the ones we've seen on our travels already. I'm sure the views would have been impressive too,but it was covered in thick cloud for as far as you could see from the monsoon rain. Next door to the temple are the 'killing caves', which is now a memorial site for those that were murdered there under the Khmer Rouge. It was very atmospheric; especially with the rain and clouds; as you walked down a narrow staircase to the bottom of the caves where there is now a large gold Buddha statue. A local boy, probably 8-9years, had become our guide. Again he spoke brilliant English , but don't think he grasped the importance of what he was describing as the words simply became part of his sales pitch. He said that 5000 people had been killed in the caves (men, women and children) and he put on a little light inside the glass walled memorial area, which lit up to show hundreds of human bones. Nothing could have prepared me, I froze and chose not to step any nearer, I couldn't. Jason went up to the memorial area with the boy where he pointed out injuries found on bones and skin. It wasn't appropriate for us to take photographs here. So so upsetting and mind boggling. It's part of recent history. I dread to think how I'll react if we have time to visit the killing field of Choeung Ek.

We had a little bit of time in a cafe while we waited for the bats to come out of a cave. While we were waiting we were chatting to our tuk tuk driver and another one that spoke good English. They were apologising for how they acted as we got off the bus the day before, describing how this wasn't their personality but that times are hard in Cambodia and business and money means everything to their family's survival. The other tuk tuk driver was talking a lot about government and politics, how a recent election resulted in murders on the streets from government forces. He said we were lucky to be born in the UK and that he sees on the TV and on the internet what opportunities we have. Me and Jason agreed with everything he said and appreciate more then ever the daily struggles that a lot of Cambodians have to go through to survive. Our tuktuk drivers were in their twenties,seemed very intelligent, wanted a future for Cambodia but felt trapped in the lives' they've been given. I think this is the most poverty stricken country I've visited. I know the country has a reputation for being called 'scambodia' by backpackers, but I guess you have to remember why they are out to get that extra dollar from tourists.

We finished our day with a viewing of millions of bats leaving a cave in early evening and swirling through the skyline over rice paddy fields. Amazing.

A jampacked and rainy day was finished with an Indian curry and a beer. Yes, I know it's not a Cambodian cuisine, but so far I've not been very impressed with local food and you know I love a chicken saag.

Another early start tomorrow and a 13 hour bus trip to the south coast beaches.

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Posted by bloorsontour 07:20

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A really moving account, Sophie! It must be hard to keep emotions in check at times. Take care, love you loads. Xxxxx

by Ma and Pa

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