Battambang is the second largest town in Cambodia. It is a laid back and unassuming town surrounded by paddy fields laced with dormant landmines. These landmines are still a great threat to local and visitor alike - especially during the rainy season when the ground softens to expose them. As a result, we stick to the well worn paths - we visit the Killing Caves.
The Killing Caves of Battambang are located some 20km from the town - and our ride there takes us past numerous 'picture stops'. A temple perched high on a hillside, a tree full of bats, a suspension bridge built for motos and a bizarre train - more of which later...
The caves are perched on a 300m high escarpment. We stop for refreshments before climbing up and chat with our drivers. Mr Tin is to lead us up today as Dharma and Seung-I-Think led the last procession up earlier that week. I tell Mr Tin he has drawn the short straw - he looks puzzled. So we explain what this means and get three straws to demonstrate. Dharma pulls the short straw - Mr Tin immediately sits down and smiles smugly. Dharma looks confused, then bemused - he's been had!
So we trudge up the hill, its hot and dusty work but Dharma keeps us amused with stories as we go.
At the top, we pay a small fee to enter the caves - which apparently is pocketed by the monk/guard. We move on carefully, aware that stepping off the path could lead to a loss of a limb.
The cave itself has been cleaned up since the atrocities - the remains of the victims found within are now in a cage in one corner. But the sight of the hole some 30m above jagged rocks through which men, women and children were hurled makes us all feel queasy.
Exiting the main cave, we're led to a smaller pit in which the bones of small children can still be seen - it was here that children with handicaps or those too young to work were thrown and left to die of starvation.
It occurs to me that perhaps the people of Cambodia are so friendly and smiling despite their extreme poverty because they now have peace. I give a few coins to an old lady who is sitting at the gates - she blesses me - a process that takes some time as she grabs my hand and grins with genuine thanks.
We climb down to the motos and order lunch while watching local kids play a game of marbles for the equivalent of a five dollar note - a game that is incredibly fast and accurate.
Heading back, we pass through numerous villages and enjoy the constant shouts of "Hello" from the kids as we pass.
Then we arrive at a concrete platform beside an old and warped railway line. Here our motos are placed on a deck made of bamboo which is strapped to two sets of wheels driven by a jerry-rigged moto engine. We pile on in front of them.
Its an ingenious mode of transport, using lines that only occasionally see a proper train pass. We clatter along, a foot off the ground. The scenery spectacular - paddy fields, bamboo stilt houses and patches of jungle.
Then we stop as we we reach another such contraption waiting to head the opposite way - this is where the "Silly Train" gets its name... The drivers survey each others load, argue a little, and then the lightest one unloads and dismantles to allow the heavier to pass - the train is then rebuilt and reloaded!
One final snippet we uncover - Battambang means 'Lost Stick'. Legend has it that a king had a stick that could defeat all who opposed him - until one day, an armless and legless cripple who was looking after a friends horse (strapped in the saddle) rode into the palace... the King, who'd been warned by a soothsayer of the coming of a foe on horseback threw his stick at the cripple, missed and lost his stick and hence power.
Make of that what you will...