Sleepy and relaxing despite it being Cambodia’s second largest city, Battambang is a bastion of the country’s historical allure. With its charming French colonial architecture and abundant Buddhist temples and shrines, it’s also a go-to destination for those interested in history.
Battambang is easy to get around in on foot or bicycle, making it a great place for urban exploration. The city boasts a captivating blend of small-town friendliness and post-colonial charm, Battambang is an impressionable city worthy of a visit.
Most that come to Battambang will do so for the promise of a ride aboard the Bamboo Train. Built by the French in the 1920’s as simple metal-and-bamboo “trains”, this oddball attraction is a rattling, lurching joyride through the Cambodian countryside.
Head just outside the city proper to Pheam Ek Village and you’ll be treated to a rolling patchwork of rice fields punctuated by rickety traditional stilted houses. Here you can spot local women rolling rice paper by hand and, in nearby Sonrong Knong, you can pick up a sample of sticky rice from roadside vendors. At Prahoc Factory, see how Cambodia’s famous fermented fish paste is manufactured.
History buffs will love the 11th Century Phnom Banan – though a challenge to get to, its crumbling ruins offer commanding views of the surrounding area that make the trip worthwhile. Afterwards, head to Phnom Sampeau Complex for a glimpse at the colourful collection of temples and stupas at the top of a mountain. En route, you can also visit the macabre Killing Caves which, like Phnom Penh’s Killing Fields, are a somber reminder of one of humanity’s darkest hours.
How to get there:
By Bus: Battambang is accessed by bus from Phnom Penh (four hours), Siem Reap (three hours) and Sisophon, near the Thai border (one hour). The bus station is about three kilometres outside the city-centre. From there, take either a tuk tuk or motorbike to travel the rest of the way.
By Boat: A scenic and interesting journey from Siem Reap departs once daily, and can take between four and 12 hours, depending on the season and the state of the river. During the peak of dry season, the boat is unable to make it all the way to Battambang, and instead will be used in combination with a shuttle bus to take you the rest of the way.