My 5: Phnom Sampeau – Battambang, Cambodia.

sculptures killing caves Phnom Sampeau Battambang

1. Phnom Sampeau, December 2015. The curious little Cambodian city of Battambang offers visitors a handful of unique sights that stand right up there with the country’s must-see attractions. One of these is Phnom Sampeau, a massive limestone outcrop 12 kilometres outside the town centre. It’s a steep forty-minute walk up to its highest paths, or you can pay an entrepreneurial moto-man four dollars to whisk you up. About halfway up the hill a side road leads you under a gate into the site of Battambang’s grisly Killing Caves. It was here that the Khmer Rouge bludgeoned hundreds of people to death and tossed their bodies through the skylights of the caves. A series of gruesome sculptures depict the atrocities, while down in the main cave there’s a glass case memorial of skulls and bones. Not for the fainthearted.

2. Phnom Sampeau, December 2015. After the horror of The Killing Caves, you’ll be in definite need of a pick-me-up. Happily then it’s just another ten minutes or so up to Phnom Sampeau’s highest viewpoint with gorgeous views across the surrounding countryside. It’s the perfect spot for a bit of quiet time and reflection.

3. Phnom Sampeau, December 2015. There are various points of interest scattered around the countryside, including vast stretches of farmer’s fields, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold called Crocodile Mountain, a collection of scattered wooden houses set in a valley and this cute little stilted temple nestled between a circle of thick trees.

4. Phnom Sampeau, December 2015. This ancient old cave stands as Phnom Sampeau’s most popular sight! At five thirty every evening crowds of expectant people gather to watch as over five million (!) bats pour out into the evening sky. It was truly an incredible sight I’ll never forget, the bats gushing out in a thick column of flapping wings and spooky squeals.

5. Phnom Sampeau, December 2015. The sheer scale of Phnom Sampeau’s bat extravaganza can be hard to comprehend, with the mass exodus taking around forty minutes to complete. This daily ritual sees the looping line of bats head off to Tonlé Sap Lake, where they feast on mosquitos for a couple of hours before returning home.  

For more on my time here, check out my other 5s on Battambang.

Like these? Then why not read about my adventures all around Cambodia

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Freelance travel writer, voice over and English teacher from London. Former music and film journalist, interviewer of the stars. Passionate about travel, film, music, football, Indian food.

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