Battambang is a wonderful city located on the Sangkae River in North West Cambodia. It may be considered a little off the beaten track as there are very few tourists there, but it’s the perfect stop to make before or after you are visiting Siem Reap for Angkor Wat. Below I list some of the top things to do in Battambang!
This is typically the sort of place you could do in a day if you really wanted too (it would be a busy day!), or you can split it over two days. We stayed for two nights and that was the ideal amount.
There are a variety of hostels and hotels located in the area and to be honest, most of are of quite a high standard. We stayed in a hotel called Seasons Guesthouse because it’s always cheaper than a hostel in South East Asia (or at least the same price).
The price of our stay was £7.70 a night for a double room with aircon (That's £3.35 each for two people sharing!). You can't complain about that! (Use booking.com to book- 9/10 they're cheaper, take this from someone who searches the depths of the internet for the best deals)
Unfortunately, the WiFi was not working when we were there, which was an issue since we work as we travel, but it was only two nights so we had to get over it. They offered free pickup at the bus station which was great, BUT regardless of who picks you up, it’s the same price via tuk-tuk to all places in Battambang: $1. Along with everything else in Cambodia, tuk-tuk rides are crazy cheap.
It’s quite surprising how many things there are to do in this city. Actually, when you google it, it can seem quite sparse, but when you ask a local tuk-tuk driver what there is to do, they are happy to share a little map and itinerary with you.
We needed a driver to take us around to all the spots, (we usually use a moped, but opted out of it this time). Our driver was lovely, so we decided to choose him! It cost us $10 dollars to use him for the whole day… (9 am to 6 pm). So I had to tip him too because it’s just too cheap.
The most well-known thing to do in Battambang is the Bamboo train.
It’s literally a train made out of bamboo. But not a typical train you are imaging. Rather it looks like the picture below.
This is what they had previously used to transport foods up and down the city. When we were there we were told they were going to shut the original bamboo train down to make for a new rail line and according to trip advisor reviews as of (Jan 2018), then has been the case.
This is a pity since the ride we took was a beautiful, exhilarating ride alongside the countryside, through bridges and local houses. I truly loved it- it was serene and the Cambodian countryside is beautiful. It cost us around $3 dollars each and we paid a local policeman, who was pleasant! It wasn’t very busy when we were there, so we had the train to ourselves pretty much with another solo traveller.
The only annoying thing is at the other end of the “train station”, all you have is little kids trying to sell you stuff. They are persistent, but just don’t give in. You get around ten minutes to stop and have a drink/snack/buy something, then you’re back on the bamboo train for the return journey.
It appears the situation now is there is a small bit of track left (250 meters) each way and they are charging $3-5 dollars to take this short ride. It doesn’t go through the places you want to see, so I don’t see how it would be worth it
BUT if you’ve got small children, then they will find it exciting anyway. It may just be transitioning into another “tourist trap” which is a pity.
PS: they try to tell you to “tip” the train driver...which is fine and all, but the money you’ve just paid for should be going to them anyway, so it’s up to you what you do.
Phnom Sampeou is a mountain (besides a set of mountains) located around 12 kilometers southwest of the city of Battambang and is steeped in history and legend.
I don’t want to spoil the stories or legends, so be sure to ask your tuk-tuk driver (ours spoke some English), as the story is super interesting!
This mountain is known as “bat cave” due to the sheer amount of bats that flutter out when it goes dark. It’s amazing and something out of a David Attenborough show. The bats appear suddenly at dusk and continue for at least 20 minutes.
It is mind-blowing how many there are, we are talking thousands upon thousands! They head off to the rice paddies in all directions and it’s an experience you’ll have never seen before. There are seats located below with stalls that sell drinks and snacks. So grab yourself a Cambodian beer and experience the bats!
Close to this area there are also some temples to be seen, we didn’t check any out because we had just come from Siem Reap and to be perfectly honest, had seen enough temples to last a lifetime. You can climb the mountain to see the temple, which is a good activity to do just before the bat experience.
If you don’t know about Cambodia’s history then you might not have heard of the killing fields, the Khmer regime under Pol Pot. If so, you need to do a bit of research. It’s one of the most tragic and horrific genocides and a sad, deep part of Cambodia's history. There are “killing fields” located all throughout the country, one of the most famous is located in Phon Phen. However, there is a killing field located in Battambang (A few of them according to maps)
The killing cave is an execution site that's located on the same hill as above. The Khmer Rouge killed their victims on top of the cave at the rim of a ceiling hole or daylight shaft and then threw the dead body into the cave. Bones and skulls are kept in a glass-covered cabin next to the Buddha statue and these belong to the victims of the regime. It’s a sad experience, but it’s also an important one. So, if you have the strength for it, then visiting the killing cave. It’s not like the killing fields with lots of information or audio guides, but a quick google search will give you the context of what you are seeing.
Battambang is a nice place to just simply walk around. There a little “promenade” with a play park and outdoor gym, shops to explore and lots of delicious restaurants to eat in (alongside decent happy hours). (Ask your driver- if you have one for a cheap recommendation) There is even a hostel/cafe that is called the friends' bar because it constantly has reruns of the TV show ‘Friends’ on- amazing! There is also a museum you can check out (we didn’t), but its called Battambang Provincial Museum. Check it out and let us know in the comments what you think.
This is a temple and ruins located around 12 km outside of the city. It’s a Hindu temple and although it’ partly collapsed and looted it is famous for its well-carved pediments and lintels. If you haven’t been to the temples of Siem Reap yet, (Angkor wat etc), then maybe it’s a good temple to visit, otherwise, you may be a little underwhelmed. However, the things about temples throughout Cambodia is that they all have an individuality about them, you just have to find it and appreciate it. If you can’t then honestly, they will all look the same to you. So it depends on what you like. You can reach this temple via moped which can be rented throughout the city, or again via a tuk-tuk driver!
These are my recommendations for things to do in Battambang. If you've got anymore suggestions, or you've visited, comment below! If you're looking for other places to visit in Cambodia, check out Kampot (my favourite place!), or this unique wild sanctuary in the capital!