I get it, Siem Reap is Cambodia’s tourist draw, and for good reasons, first among all being the stunning Angkor Wat archaeological park nearby. However, the fascinating Southeast Asian country definitely has other cities that are interesting under different points of view, be it historical or to delve deeper into its traditions, such as Battambang, capital of its namesake province. After visiting, here are my suggestions on the best things to do in Battambang should you happen there.
Top things to do in Battambang
Battambang local market
The first thing I would recommend, as I always do anywhere I go, is to visit Battambang’s local market, a real explosion of colors, sounds, and smells, in a nutshell, of daily-life moments. It’s the type of place where you can find anything you are looking for and more, from tailors who can sew and fix your clothes, food to take away, fresh fruits and veggies, fish, eggs, grasshoppers and all sorts of Cambodian delicacies.
Maybe instead of bamboo “train”, it can be called bamboo “wagon” as you’ll be traveling on single carriages, albeit engine-based rather than ox-drawn ones, but it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Battambang. Running along the ancient railways not operative anymore, you will inevitably go past traditional villages, meet locals playing cards and watching the never-missing TV, drink freshly squeezed sugarcane juice and, obviously, be literally immersed in unspoiled nature.
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Phnom Sampeau and Killing Caves
Among the things to do in Battambang, there is a temple complex beside a painfully notorious site belonging to Cambodian modern history at about 14 km from the city. All throughout my trip, the years under the Khmer Rouge rule were some sort of leitmotif, a tragic theme that occurred every now and then. Here, there are what have been called “killing or death caves”, where it is said the Khmer Rouge officials used to drop the bodies of the people they had either just killed or to kill them altogether. Former Buddhist site then used as killing caves, now the place has been restored to its original function yet keeping alive the mark of the country’s tragic past with a display of bones and skulls on the bottom of the cave.
If you want to visit Angkor Wat, read our post-Spiritual Cambodia in Angkor Wat between modernity and tradition
Wat Ek Phnom
Located some 10 km from Battambang, Ek Phnom temple is a must-see for anyone visiting this city. A huge statue of a white-stone sitting Buddha welcomes the visitors and leads them to a new, over-decorated pagoda that opens the way to the ruins of the ancient Wat Ek Phnom, dating back to the Bayon period. Beautiful carvings and temple life surrounded by an almost untouched nature complete the rural Cambodia scene enhanced by monks’ orange tunics hanging here and there to dry and locals working on the banks of the river.
Who doesn’t like a good glass of wine? That’s right, wineries can be visited in Cambodia too, not only in Italy and France! Cambodian wines might be different from European ones, but the experience of seeing the place where the grape juice is produced is worth a stop at Battambang’s only winery. Walk along the cute grape-lined vineyards and enjoy a chat with locals and tourists, all made more cheerful probably by the eventuality of a future wine tasting.
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All these spots are easy to reach as any tuk-tuk driver will offer you to take you and stay with you for the whole day, and depending on who you find, the trip will be made more precious by the tales and anecdotes the driver will share with you about Cambodia and his own life.
No matter how many days you will stay in Battambang, at night do not miss a stroll along the river for a delicious and ridiculously cheap Cambodian dinner followed by the intense taste of local milky coconut, apparently typical from Battambang, with an incredibly thick and flavorful meat.
Many are the things to do in Battambang because in this fast developing tourist destination, not only Siem Reap is worth a trip.
Hotels in Cambodia
***Sanctuary Villa Battambang
In the city center of Battambang with peaceful and good sized clean rooms and nice facilities such as pool and Garden. Click here for more information about Sanctuary Villa Battambang, Cambodia
If you are looking for a good budget hotel with good services in Battambang, The Royal Hotel is one of your best choices. If you are lucky, you might find rooms as little as $13 per night. Click here for more information about the prices and facilities of Royal hotel in Battambang, Cambodia
It’s a little bit pricey (Cambodian pricey not western) and it’s totally worth it. Sangker Villa is a French-run little hotel with friendly staff, delicious breakfast, nice light pool for the night swim, homemade foods and drinks. Click here to see the latest prices and availabilities of Sangker Villa in Battambang, Cambodia
It is a top rated villa in Battambang with good location close to Battambang city center, services and facilities inside the villa. Nice clean pool, big rooms and bathrooms, excellent breakfast, and good quality food if you want to eat in the hotel. Click here to see the latest prices and more information about the Delux Villa in Cambodia.