Bats On the Move

Friday, January 9, 2015

Battambang, Cambodia

We were able to eat breakfast at the hotel this morning and we enjoyed khmer chicken pancakes with vegetables washed down with green tea.

The tuk tuk organised by the cooking class picked us up and took us into town. We met LyLy who was our teacher for the morning and runs the Coconut restaurant. We started with a trip to the markets where he pointed out a range of herbs and vegetables including tamarind, turmeric, galangal, lotus root, morning glory, three different types of eggplant, all sorts of fish including some that were still flapping about so you knew they were fresh.

Most interesting was buying our fresh cocounut milk. The woman put coconut flesh through the machine and extracted the milk that we would use to make fish amok.

Back at the restaurant we donned our aprons and washed our hands. To start with Lyly showed us how to make his speciality coconut Lyly which we would have for dessert. Really yummy but needs fresh coconut. It was like having coconut brulee without the caramelised top, and when frozen makes coconut ice cream.

Then it was over to us. We learnt how to chop finely and set to work on lemongrass, galangal, garlic and the other ingredients that went into the paste. We had enormous mortars and pestles and really had to pound it to get the paste the right consistency. We thinly sliced the fish and made the garnish and then had to the banana leaf baskets that the fish amok would steam in. I failed and had to redo it, but everyone else was fine.

Once our amok was ladled into the banana baskets, it was onto the green mango salad. We grated mango and pounded dried shrimp was had been soaked in water. We also made a Khmer dressing with sweet chilli sauce and lime juice that can be used on a variety of salads.

Finally we made sour chicken soup with onions, oyster mushrooms, chicken, fish sauce and lime juice. We had to taste our dishes as we went to make sure they were just right.

Then we sat down to eat our feast and congratulate ourselves on being such fabulous cooks.

We stopped off at the supermarket to stock up on snacks for the boat tomorrow which leaves at 7am so too early for breakfast then returned to the hotel for wi-fi time.

We were picked up by tuk tuk at 3pm for our trip to the Killing Caves and to see the bats fly out of the caves at dusk. It was a climb up to the top of the hill to visit the killing caves where bodies had been thrown under Pol Pot and there was another memorial with the bones and skulls that had been recovered.

There were a number of temples to visit and we wandered around before descending the nearly 400 steps to the bottom so we could find a good position in front of the cave to see the bats emerge.

We waited for almost an hour as our tuk tuk driver had suggested we be in position by 5.15 and they didn't emerge until 6pm. We listened to people betting on what time they would emerge and watched the people from our ideal vantage point. You could hear the bats squeaking so we knew they were getting ready!

At 6pm a trickle of bats started to emerge and steadily became a stream. They were tiny and all headed off in the one direction. It was quite a sight. At the suggestion of our driver we hopped back into the tuk tuk and headed back to the main road and walked into a field where the stream of bats was like an undulating wave across the skyline. Amazing. There are literally millions of bats. Show over, we headed into town for dinner at Ambrosia which had good food and excellent cheesecake and brownies for dessert.