Today was our first full day in Battambang and it was packed with many activities. We had the opportunities to ride a bamboo train, take a cooking class, kayak down the river, and visit a memorial site from the Khmer Rouge reign. The wide variety of activities allowed us to familiarize ourselves with the city while also providing an educational experience.
The first stop of our day was a ride on a traditional Cambodian bamboo train. These trains are essentially a bamboo mattress frame set upon two axels. Because the railway system in Cambodia is somewhat lacking, locals created these bamboo trains in order to transport themselves and various goods between different places in the region. Because the government plans to upgrade the railway system, these bamboo trains may soon be a thing of the past. It was a thrilling experience to be able to ride through the Cambodian countryside and witness the rural life of the locals.
After the bamboo train, we went back to downtown Battambang to take a cooking class from a local restaurant. We toured through the market place and purchased ingredients for our meal. Back at the restaurant we had the opportunity to use a mortar pestle and a wok to stir fry our homemade meal. It provided us a better understanding of the complexities of Cambodian cuisine.
Our next stop consisted of a ride down the river in either a motor boat or a kayak. It was interesting to see the lifestyles of locals who make their living along the riverbanks. It was nice to relax and experience the beautiful Cambodian weather.
Our final stop was a visit to a historical site located amongst caves on a prominent hill. This was quite a sobering experience as it was a location where over 170,000 Cambodian citizens were murdered by the Khmer Rouge. These caves were the final resting place of many Cambodians during the civil war. After a steep hike back down the hill we got to watch millions of bats emerge from the cave. It was an amazing spectacle and something that none of us had ever witnessed before.
This fun filled day provided us with new cultural experiences as well as some fun recreational activities. We are looking forward what else Battambang has to offer us over the next day and hope to learn more about the rural life of Cambodia.