When in Cambodia, its amazing to learn about the culture and the daily lives of the people that live in this country. As Battambang is quite small, we managed to cram all of it in one day. This included how rice paper, banana sheets and the famous cobra rice wine (which is more like a straight up spirit than a lovely glass of wine) are made. We visited the killing caves, temples and watched the bats fly out at sun down. Managed to do all of Battambang in one day and this is how its done.
We arrived in Battambang late afternoon by bus from Siem Reap, which was an experience in its self, let’s just leave that there. We decided to see what was around us and have a little explore of the main town. A few bars and restaurants, a couple of random electronic shops and lots of street vendors. Apart from that not much else. We had a little to eat and called it a night.
Battambang In One Day
The next morning our tuk tuk driver picked us up around 9am. With that the day commenced. Firstly we visited the first temple built in the town. By the temple were large tarps of rice drying out in the sun and the driver slash tour guide showed us how Cambodians harvest the rice. He showed us a second temple that was a lot further out which was very similar to the Angkor Wat temples however a lot more run down and overgrown with flowers.
Next on the agenda was how rice paper was made. The average family makes around 2000 rice sheets a day. This is all by hand too. They start by soaking the rice in water over night. Then in the morning the rice is ground and hung in a cloth to drain. Next the dried rice is blended with salt water to add to its shelf life. Whats left looks similar to pancake mix. This mix is then steamed and shaped into a circle. They let the rice paper dry out in the sun on bamboo for a few hours. Then you have your final product, ready to be made into tasty spring rolls.
Banana sheets are a tasty, healthy treat for the locals. They’re pretty simple to make too. With sharp knives they thinly slice bananas length ways and lie them out on bamboo frames, slightly overlapping each other. Once full they are left to dry out in the sun. Whilst they’re drying though they are privy to flies, So when the banana sheets are dry they are then burned for a couple of seconds over a fire. Then popped into plastic bags ready for sale. I had a bite of one and it was soo sweet, and tasty.
Onto the locals choice of booze, rice wine. We’re truly cramming the whole of Battambang in one day. Rice wine is made up of… you guessed it rice and some other ingredients like their homemade yeast, which consisted of pepper, cardamom, coriander, garlic, ginger and star-anis. This was mainly to add some flavour to the wine. The process consisted of cooking the rice, leaving the rice to ferment with the yeast for a few days then the rice cooked and distilled in the most make shift, old fashion distillery you could imagine, hey, can’t knock the tradition and its authenticity.
The rice wine is about 40% abv and after its distilled it comes in two flavours, one for the lady which contains fruit, this lessens the abv, the second for the man which contains cobras, y’know for more manliness. Sigh face. Don’t be fooled the locals may call it wine but it definitely doesn’t taste like wine, More like straight up ethanol.
After a lunch break at 3pm it was time to hike up to the infamous killing caves and learn about the tragic events during the reign of Khmer Rouge. At the bottom of the hill there is an opportunity to pay for a 4×4 tour up to all the main sites, Opt for this if you’re anything like me. The hike is steep. We never made it to the temple at the top. wupps.
On the way up there are lots of temples dotted over the mountain and giant golden buddhas. In the middle is the killing caves which had a grotesque sculpture depicting the torture that went on. Then its down into the cave where you can see a pyramid of skulls that had been excavated from the cave as a stark reminder about the tragedy that happened there.
Further up the mountain is the flower cave, some of the local kids give you a tour around the caves for a $1 and tell you a little about them. Good thing to, otherwise we would have had no clue.The flower caves were beautiful, one even containing a small temple. Theres also lots of monkeys running around the area, which is always a bonus.
A visit to Battambang isn’t complete without a trip to the bat cave. Home to between 5 and 7 millions bats, which all fly out at sundown. This was such a magical event, one that you definitely shouldn’t miss. The bats fly out in a sound wave type formation, it truly is amazing. Unfortunately though this is shortly ruined by the traffic and bustle of tourists trying to get back home.
After that we headed home and awaited our night bus. Just a heads up. This option is not recommend from me at all. It started out as a fun new experience but our bus was crawling with bed bugs. So yeh, I would not advise on doing that.
So that was us, exploring all of Battambang in one day. It was great to learn about the culture and the traditional crafts these villagers still uphold today and we crammed all of that into one day. If you haven’t already be sure to check out my post from Siem Reap in Cambodia.