Battambang and the Bats cave
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After visiting the beautiful temple complex of Angkor (https://www.marsontheroad.com/en/destinazioni/89/il-paradiso-in-terra-angkor-wat), I decide to better explore the north of Cambodia and so I take a bus to go to Battambang; the journey takes around 3½ hours for $ 7 with Mekong Express bus.
I want to open a small parenthesis regarding the currency that circulates in Cambodia. The official currency is both the Riel and the US dollar. € 1 is equivalent to 4,958 Riel; while 1 $ = 4000 Riel; it often happens that you pay in dollars and you get the exchange in local currency or you can pay the same account with both coins. It seems complicated but everything comes automatically after a few days.
But, returning to Battambang, I stay at the Lucky Hostel hostel paying $ 3.50 in a 6-person dorm. The cleanliness is not the best so I recommend staying at The Place rooftop and Hostel for the same price and better quality.
Battambang is a city overlooking the Sangkae River in northwestern Cambodia. It is known for its colonial buildings such as Sala Khaet, the former residence of the governor. The Provincial Museum of Battambang hosts finds coming from the local Khmer temples. Here you can find also the Phare Ponleu Selpak: a school of circus arts and shows for disadvantaged children.
I rent a scooter for the $ 7 to explore the surroundings. North of the centre you can find the ruins of Ek Phnom, an 11th-century pagoda with sandstone carvings. It can be reached in about half an hour (12 km) by scooter.
Later I go to Wat Samrong Knong and the Basat Temple. In the latter village, I find a local market where I take something for lunch. The local people are really friendly even if they do not speak English.
In the afternoon I head to the Bamboo Train, one of the most famous Battambang attractions. The bamboo train (or Norrie as it is known locally) made its first appearance in the early 80s inspired by the small railway vehicles used by railway workers to make repairs. The old route has been closed and currently, they have created a new one for tourists for the price of 5 $. We step because it is on the way but not for anything else; it is, in fact, a mere tourist attraction.
Heading towards the Banan Hill Temple, I meet a group of guys who play group games. This is the organization Youth and Disadvantages Community that try to give fun to less fortunate children.
I try to turn on the scooter but it does not work; some locals come to help me and after several attempts, they manage to start it. It's the second time it happens in a day. Unfortunately, here it is quite difficult to make sure that the scooter has been checked before renting it. It's really about luck!
Finally, I arrive at the temple. Banan was originally built in the 11th century, despite having witnessed a Buddhist remaking during the 12th century and the reign of Jayavarman VII. The temple is built on top of a hill.
We must, therefore, make 358 steps to get to the top where five towers remain precariously.
Here you can enjoy a beautiful view of the green landscape full of vegetation. And the temple itself is very impressive with various plants in the middle that make it special.
Last destination of the day: Bats Caves. It takes almost 1 hour to get there from Banan; most of the road is not paved and is trafficked by many trucks that always leave a tremendous dust behind.
The locals tell me that at 5:30 pm the show of thousands and thousands of bats that leave the cave takes place. They create a constant flow that flies for about 45 minutes or more. In fact, there are many tourists sitting along the various bars waiting for this moment.
I stayed in Battambang for 2 whole days. It's nice to walk along the river where there are various stalls with very cheap local food (rice or noodle with vegetables and meat for $ 1.50).
If you want to eat comfortably in a restaurant I recommend Nary kitchen and cooking school (all the menu at $ 3.75) - delicious dishes and the Wood House with prices ranging from $ 2.50 to $ 5.
Get ready for the tremendous heat. During these days there were 36 degrees but with a humidity rate of 70%. It has been therefore quite difficult to visit the centre. Iìve had to stop almost every hour for a cool drink and to breathe some air-conditioning.
Finally, you can reach Battambang also by boat thus admiring a very beautiful landscape.
I did not do it because I had already booked the bus but many people recommended it to me.
It is, therefore, a destination to visit if you have time but in my opinion is not essential.