Set upon on the banks of the Sangker River, Battambang is easily reached from Siem Reap across the scenic Tonle Sap lake. One of Cambodia’s largest towns, Battambang’s main draws are its rich heritage, art scene and graceful architecture built in colonial times, the latter of which has given it its right to currently be up for UNESCO World Heritage status. Despite its attractions, this town does not feature on the usual tourist beaten track so retains a peaceful feel and a distinct lack of crowds – a huge plus.
Our favourite spot to visit here is the hilltop Angkorian temple of Wat Banan, which consists of five towers, leading some ambitious Battambang residents to claim it may have been the inspiration behind Angkor Wat. A walk to the temple's summit is well worth it for striking views of the surrounding plains that stretch out to the horizon far as the eye can see. For sunset views, we recommend the sacred mountain of Phnom Sampeau, which is dotted with interesting pagodas and stupas. Battambang is also home to riverside temple Wat Ek Phnom and its giant Buddha statue.
As well as these historic temples, Battambang also offers insight into Cambodia’s laid-back rural life. Locals and visitors enjoy meditation in motion here as the dusty undeveloped roads wind through the lush countryside, providing glimpses of everyday village life and traditional farming, complete with ox-drawn carts. Take a ride on a popular ‘bamboo train’, a delightfully uncomplicated invention consisting of bamboo platforms with wheels that fly along the rail tracks, to admire these views and whizz past paddy fields and lotus ponds.
Another must-do attraction in Battambang is a visit to the non-profit organisation Phare Ponleu Selpak. This wonderful association teaches traditional music, visual and performance arts to local children and young adults, giving them valuable skills and support. Located on the outskirts of Battambang, visit their art gallery and have a drink in the bar, before heading to their huge big-top tent to watch an impressive performance, usually a mix of drama, comedy, traditional dance and acrobatics, backed with original live Khmer music.
Today, an urban buzz has started to catch on in Battambang, thanks to its popular art galleries, quirky cafés and boutique hotels. Enjoy these as well as great street food, vibrant tuk tuks and the rest of what the colourful centre has to offer during your stay here. Or if you are feeling more in need of a serene atmosphere, simply explore the authentic rural village life that surrounds this city and pass local farmers and artisans going about their daily business as well as old remnants of Angkorian architecture.
Features in the following itineraries
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Leslie Siben, India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India