Battambang, Cambodia: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Battambang City is the second biggest city in Cambodia, and capital of the Battambang Province, located near the Thai border, in the northwestern part of the country. It is situated on the Sangkae River, once a very important water traffic road from Cambodia to Thailand. It is now a peaceful river, disturbed only by occasional fishing boats and ferries carrying tourists to see the surrounding natural beauties.
Getting to and around Battambang
Battambang still holds a very important position for Cambodian people, being close to the border, and surrounded by scenic nature sites. It is also the center of rice production in Cambodia, and an important historic and religious town, especially for the Khmer people.
Roads leading to Battambang are in solid shape, much better than in most parts of the country. There are regular bus lines between Battambang and the nearby city of Siem Reap, the capital Phnom Penh, and other important cities in Cambodia. Battambang is also one of the few remaining cities in the country with a functional railway system, although only for several kilometers. Of course, there are no trains arriving to Battambang, because they wouldn’t have where to arrive from, but there are still functioning bamboo trains, called norries, used daily by locals and tourists alike. Norry stations are scattered around the city, and are a very cheap alternative to other means of transportation. The only other remaining way of getting to Battambang City is by boats, or ferries. Battambang has its port, although pretty small and disorganized. Local fishermen’s boats and ferries carrying tourists to some of the many tours around the city arrive here daily, making it one of the busiest places in this pretty tranquil town.
When it comes to getting around Battambang, the situation is pretty much like everywhere else in Cambodia: tuk tuks and motorbikes are the most widely used means of transportation, followed by bicycles and a few cars and buses. Tuk tuks drivers can be found seemingly at every corner, offering their services primarily to the tourists. And, although there are no fixed fares, they can be sure this will be a very cheap experience for them; depending on their bargaining and persistence, they can be driven in tuk tuks around the city for as low as $2. Most sites worth visiting in the city itself are located pretty close to each other, so there is no necessity to hire a taxi or rent a motorbike to see them all. However, the most famous sites in Battambang are situated outside of the town, including world famous Bat Caves, and Bamboo Railway. To visit them, we recommend hiring a driver/ guide for the day, or renting a motorbike. Both are cheap, costing from $7 for renting, to $12 for the full-day drive and guidance.
Exploring Battambang and its surroundings
There are several sites worth seeing in the town itself, such as the Battambang Provincial Museum, one or all of the five art galleries, Phsar Nath Market, Discovery Visitor Center, or just walking around town and admiring its colonial architecture. The town is also littered with parks, nice for relaxing strolls or just resting in the greenery.
There is even more to be seen around the town, starting from perhaps the most famous Bat Caves. They are located around 12 kilometers out of town, and are famous for the millions of bats flying out of them every day at dusk. The amazing scene can be witnessed from the nearby Phnom Samphou Hills, home to the equally famous and even more scary Killing Caves. Thousands of corpses lay here as a gruesome reminder of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime. Many of the corpses are now relocated and joined together to serve as shrines for the local people.
Bamboo trains and bamboo railway are also unique sites around Battambang. They are located just outside the town, and are still used by the local people and tourists alike. The trains, called norries, are operated by one man, and are made of bamboo trees. They linger along the rail, passing through scenic landscape of the surrounding villages and Sek Sak Natural Resort, where tourists like to enjoy the river rapids.
Another natural resort settled around Battambang City is the Phnom Sampov, or Sam Puoy Mountain. On the top of Sam Puoy Mountain, there is a temple and three natural wells, namely Pkar Slar, Lo Khuon and Ak Sopheak.
Banan Temple is situated some 20 kilometers from the city. To get to the temple, one must climb to the top of a steep staircase. The temple is a great example of the Khmer architecture, similar to the much more famous Angkor Wat Temple.
Kamping Puoy is a reservoir located around 30 kilometers from the town of Battambang. The reservoir is convenient for boat rides on the surrounding lake, and a rare remaining place in the world where people are still living in stilt houses.
Khmer people living in the Battambang area are also known for their culture and hospitality, which are best experienced together by visiting the surrounding Cultural Villages, where locals dress up in their traditional costumes and perform traditional dances for visitors. Local inhabitants are also known for their pottery making skills, and there are many villages around Battambang where tourists can buy their craftworks or even try and make them by themselves.