Battambang is one of the most under-rated travel destinations in Cambodia and in all of SE Asia. More relaxed and less touristy than nearby Siem Reap, it’s the perfect place to decompress after spending time visiting the temples of Angkor. From its crumbling French colonial charms to its thriving local markets, it’s an ideal city for exploring on foot or by bicycle. The following is a list of the top attractions and things to do in Battambang as presented in the form of travel videos in no particular order:
1) A trip on the infamous ‘bamboo train’ is an absolute must for anybody visiting Battambang. These makeshift trains, known locally as Norry (ណូរី)) are located just outside of the city limits of Battambang. Powered by a six horse power engine and speeding along at 50 km/h makes for an exhilarating ride. The return trip costs $5 per person; however, I must warn you that when you reach the midway point you’ll be hassled quite aggressively to purchase sodas and tip your driver.
2) The rural countryside and village areas outside of Battambang beckons cultural vultures. The opportunity to sample local delicacies such as bamboo sticky coconut milk rice and even fried crickets are not to be missed. Aside from sampling food, explore rural homes to witness how rice cakes and scarves are made using simple tools and human powered instruments. Finally, spend time wandering down many of the colorful local markets.
3) Although Battambang is a city that is highly negotiable on foot (especially in Cambodia), hopping on a bicycle and pedaling around to your hearts content is even better way to get around. Some of the top highlights include biking along the scenic Sangker River, Old Railway Train Station and the Governor’s House. Along the way you’ll notice a plethora of Buddhist temples (know locally as ‘wat’) along with some gorgeous parks which make perfect rest stops.
4) There are plenty of restaurants to indulge in local Khmer dishes; however, an even better opportunity is to learn how to make Cambodian food yourself. Nary’s Kitchen offers half day cooking courses for $10 which includes a trip to a local market along with preparing three dishes. One of those dishes, Amok (steamed dish in a coconut cream sauces served in a banana leaf) is native to Battambang. The other two dishes, Lok Lak and spring rolls are equally as fun to make.
5) Visiting one of the many temples that are dotted all over Battambang is highly recommended. We were fortunate enough to visit one during Khmer New Year (Cambodian New Year) when celebrations, festivities and other special events were taking place.
6) The rural outskirt areas of Battambang are quite a distance from the city center; therefore, it’s a great idea to hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day to help you explore. The ride itself should cost no more than $12 for the day. If you’re looking to only do a half day tour you can negotiate a better rate.
7) Finally, don’t leave Battambang without first watching the incredible ‘New Circus’ Cirque Nouveau performance at Phare Ponleu Selpak. The highly skilled Khmer youth who perform at this circus will mesmerize you with their acrobatic, juggling and acting skills. Moreover, the event is all for a great cause, as the proceeds go towards supporting the NGO school for disadvantaged children.