Nobody knows exactly how many bats exit a cave in Phnom Sampeu, southwest of Battambang, Cambodia. Check out this short, albeit amateurish, video of the phenomenon.
The bats fly out each day at dusk to hunt insects most of the night. Some say millions of bats, other say tens of thousands. The mass exodus takes about 45 minutes to complete and attracts both tourists and locals.
A tragic and more significant site, the Killing Caves, sit nearby. This area was a stronghold of the Khmer Rouge during the nightmarish civil war of the 1970s. Over 10,000 Cambodians were tortured and bludgeoned to death, and then thrown into the caves.
A horrific statue display of these acts, followed by the cave itself filled with the skulls and bones of the victims, serves as a somber reminder of Cambodia’s troubled past.
Let’s lighten things up with a visit to the circus. Phare Ponleu Selpak, an arts education program for poor children, puts on performances several times weekly.
The student’s performance provides for a most enjoyable evening. Filled with music, dance and acrobatics, it’s like a mini Cirque du Soleil.
The following day, we sweat almost as much as the circus performers after climbing 358 stone steps in the stifling heat, to the temple of Prasat Banan.
Locals claim that this temple, built before Angkor Wat, provided Angkor’s plan.
Walking around the city of Battambang wraps up our three-week travels in Cambodia. The French colonial architecture and peaceful riverside setting make for a fitting finish, as we prepare for the long trip back home.
There is much to love about Cambodia, including easy, affordable, comfortable travel. But foremost is the genuine kindness of its people. The combination of magnificent, ancient spiritual sites and a barbaric recent history, touches us down deep. Thank you, Cambodia. Thank you, Abundant Universe.