Our weekends after volunteering were our free days so we decided to check out what Battambang had to offer.
During weekdays, we usually finish volunteering at around 5pm. Places do close early which meant we never had the chance to really explore anything other than bars and restaurants.
A must-do for most people who visit Cambodia is to visit the Killing fields. There is one in Phnom Penh but there is also one in Battambang – as well as Killing Caves.
We visited both in a day and it was a painful eye opening experience into Polpot’s regime in the 70s. Visiting these places just reminded us on how these events didn’t take place too long ago.
The Killing Fields and caves were within the same area. Unfortunately, due to lack of resources, the Killing Fields in Battambang has only one main thing that stands there as a memory into the genocide.
A glass chamber filled with bones and skulls from the genocide is served as a shrine. Along the shrine are stone carvings of the chain of events during the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. These carvings had captions in both Khmer and English. Here’s a glimpse of the small memorial including the carvings. It may be upsetting but I believe it’s important to be aware of this huge genocide that still shows its effects today in Cambodia.
Next up was a long walk up the mountains of Phnom Sampeau, where the Killing Caves were. There were wiser people hiring motorbikes to go up the mountain. Oh well, we needed all the exercise we could get!
As we walked up, the views became more and more breathtaking. The mountain was in the middle of lush greenery and a river that stretched for miles. Needless to say, it was probably worth walking up just to stop and take in the views.
Just to warn you, there were not many safety barriers or rails so we had to depend on our own sense of balance as well as each other.
Another thing to note is that this might not be for you if you are afraid of heights. It’s not so much of walking up a small mountain.
Once you get to the Killing Caves, you would find the holes to reveal a deep dark pitless view of nothingness – this was one of the many places where millions of Cambodians fell to their deaths.
Some of my friends who were afraid of heights, overcame it because it was a piece of history and it would have been a shame not to pay a visit to it.
I felt the same sense of gloom I had when I was in Auchwitz a few years ago. When I was stood there, I just couldn’t get my head around how this happened decades after Hitler’s genocides. This was Pol Pot’s own people and his own race who he chose to torture and kill in these fields and caves by the millions.
I started to think about how the older people I knew said they remember the genocides being on the news and how all foreign aid was rejected. I wonder if it was something that was brushed under the carpet since not many young people in England are aware of this. Sure, it did not happen in Europe but it is piece of this world’s history and the biggest genocide next to Hitler’s.
Many of us were just silent and I am sure they had the same train of thoughts going through their head. As we moved on to walk down into once of the caves, our Tuk Tuk driver started to tell us more about the genocides. What made us get into the brink of tears was when he said: “My mother and father were both killed by them.”
He said it like it was a matter of fact but this was the same for many Khmer folk. It won’t take you long to realise there are barely any elderly people in Cambodia – most of them were murdered. It is no surprise why 68% of Cambodia’s population are young people. If you do see anyone that’s rather old, they are usually handicapped in some way.
After walking down the broken stairs into the caves, we were greeted with a huge golden statue of a reclining Buddha, placed there as a shrine next to yet another glass chamber of skulls and bones of the murdered.
From inside this dark cave, you will be able to see just how high up the opening of it was to give you a picture of how long a fall it was when the victims were heartlessly pushed down them. No doubt, the mental images were hard to get rid of.
It was sad to see that many of the memorials, shrines and statues were only halfway done or just incomplete – this was due to lack of funds to even support the place.
I would say you need to have a background of the fields and caves. Unlike Auchwitz, you don’t get a tour guide here which is sad because it is just as important an event to remember.
Once we got to the top of the mountains, many of us got really excited. Why? there was a monkey kingdom! There was a glorious temple just filled with monkeys. It certainly made the dreams of some of the girls come true.
Soon it was time for sunset which could only mean one thing. It was time for the millions of bats to fly out of their caves. And what a beautiful scene it was to end the day.
As the clock went just after 6.30pm, a few bats started flying out of the caves before millions and millions of bats flew out of their caves in a heavy stream(I am not exaggerating, look it up!)
(My camera ran out of charge at this point so the pictures taken of the bat caves were just by my handy dandy Iphone 5)
Here’s a video so you can see for yourself:
It was another priceless moment after the Angkor temples, just that you did get a lot of wee on you from the bats. Some people even got pooped on. Just hold your noses and enjoy what’s above you.
Have you been to the Killing Fields and Caves in Cambodia? How did you feel when you were there and did you need to read up beforehand?