Battambang is a charming riverside city on the banks of the Sangkae River in northwestern Cambodia. The city is a low-key tourist destination, known for charming French era buildings, ancient temples, delicious cuisine, verdant countryside and the famous Bamboo train.
The best part about Battambang is how you can explore the city and its surroundings at a pace suited to you. This welcoming city with its friendly residents and laid-back vibe will offer you the best possible experience of Cambodian life.
No visit to Battambang is complete without this once in a lifetime journey on the bamboo train. It is not a ‘train’ exactly as it is just a small bamboo platform with an engine that chugs up and down a railway line in the outskirts of the city. As the city did not have a proper railway connection, the people began using the bamboo train to transport goods and people to the nearby regions. Today, it has become a popular tourist attraction and also serves its initial purpose.
Battambang presents numerous activities for visitors to indulge in and experience the surroundings as a local. You can eat to your heart’s content and also attend a Khmer cooking class and learn how to prepare these mouthwatering native dishes. Make sure you stroll around the markets, especially the night market and you can pick up some local products and handicrafts. The verdant countryside with its tiny villages around Battambang are best explored by setting off on a motorbike or bicycle. You can join half or full day organised tours or even explore on your own.
Phare Ponleu Selpak is a volunteer organisation that was founded during the times of war and civil unrest to aid youngsters. Today, it has a well known circus and trains youngsters in various skills for free. Make sure you grab tickets and witness one of their performances, as you will definitely regret missing out on the lively and energetic acrobatic display.
The limestone mountain Phnom Sampeu and its ‘killing’ caves are located 11km from Battambang. Along with its Buddhist shrines and lush vegetation, the mountain also carries a dark past. Some of its caves once housed the dead bodies of the innocent people who were killed by the Khmer Rouge (a Cambodian political party). Today, one of the caves serves as a memorial and you can find the statue of a reclining Buddha, beside which sits a glass case containing the skulls and bones of the deceased. Visiting this cave will send shivers down your spine as you try to picture the devastating events that once occurred here. However, it will also make you appreciate how Cambodians bounced back after such a horrifying period.
Phnom Sampeou also makes an exciting trekking destination and you can enjoy passing through the dense vegetation and admiring the stunning views from the many viewpoints.
One of the best things to do on a visit to Battambang, is head out of the city and admire the refreshing countryside. The villages of Wat Kor and Pheam Ek are definitely worth stopping by and you can also learn more about the rural lifestyle.
Wat Kor is located just 2km from Battambang and is centred around the Wat Kor temple. You will also find lovely traditional Khmer houses with beautiful gardens and huge verandahs. Among these, Mrs Bun Roeung’s Ancient House and Khor Sang House are open to visitors who will receive a guided tour of the entire premises.
Pheam Ek village is located 6 km from Battambang and is known for its coconut groves and rice paper workshops. Here you can watch how rice is converted to rice paste, and finally to rice paper that is a common element in most Cambodian dishes.
Battambang is home to interesting museums and galleries that will give you a better insight into the life and history of the people here. In the Battambang Provincial Museum you will find cultural artefacts from this region, especially exquisite lintels and statues. The Cambodia Peace Gallery contains exhibits that narrate people’s stories that were set in times of war, civil unrest and finally peace.
Romcheik 5 Artspace and Sangker Gallery display the impressive local talent and for those who are highly appreciative of art, these galleries will be rewarding.
Battambang, like Kampot, does not boast of dazzling tourist hubs or grand temples, and simply presents authentic Cambodian life on a platter. For those who love exploring people and places like a native, Battambang is a destination that will not disappoint.
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