Battambang is a quaint provincial city rich in old world architecture with several picturesque pagodas dotted along the riverbank. Even though Battambang is one of the largest cities in the country, it is still relatively untouched by tourism. The town has beautiful colonial-era buildings that line the roads near the walking district, which is the main area of the old shop houses, bars, local and foreign cafes and art galleries.
This charming town is perfect for those on the Cambodia package tours that love to explore the budding art scene and architecture while also experiencing the delightful local cuisine. Battambang is regarded as the arts capital of the country with many of Cambodia’s artists hailing from this particular area.
Not too far from the town, the scenery soon changes to rice paddies and villages that give a perfect opportunity to see more of the rural life in Cambodia. The countryside gives further access to the old pagodas, waterfalls, mountains, caves, Angkorian era ruins and the famous bamboo train. A scenic river trip is also possible in the countryside that links Battambang to Siem Reap.
A visit to Battambang has the ability to perfectly blend the small-town friendliness with relatively urban modernity. Whether you plan to visit Battambang for a long stay-over or just a weekend, there is a lot here to keeping most travellers entertained and busy.
The tropical monsoon climate in Cambodia makes it a perfect destination for Cambodia travel packages at any time of the year. The temperature during the months of October, November, December and January is quite pleasant for touring and visiting sights with a temperature in the region of 26°C. The rainy season can take place May to October (September is the wettest), so for the travellers visiting during these months, it helps to pack light rain gear to stay comfortable while trekking outside. The dry period is December to February, while the warmest month of the year is April.
Battambang is situated in the far west of Cambodia and bordered to the north by Banteay Meanchey province, to the east by Pursat and Tonle Sap Lake, to the south by the Cardamom Mountains, and to the west by Thailand. This region has a long established architectural heritage with stunning local countryside. This city is a perfect tranquil retreat for those that wish to get a break from the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
How to get there
The Cambodia Package Holiday to Battambang is possible by taking a direct route from Siem Reap or Phnom Penh, as well as international crossings at Pailin and Poipet. There is an hourly bus service between Battambang and Phnom Penh on a daily basis, which can take up to 5 hours to complete. Plus, there are also direct bus services from Siem Reap that can take about 4 hours to complete. Other options to reach Battambang include the boat trip from Siem Reap, which gives a scenic view along the banks of the Sangker River and the Tonle Sap Lake.
Once in the actual town, there are plenty of areas to visit by foot, such as those to the south of Psar Nath, but most of the best sightseeing destinations are outside the town limits, so it is more practical to hire a tuk-tuk for a half or full-day. Hiring a tuk-tuk for the day is quite cheap and costs in the region of $18 to $24. Plus, there are plenty of English speaking tuk-tuk drivers that make the experience less frustrating, and can even act as a tour guide to find the most interesting sites to explore.
Where to stay
Battambang is a relatively small area, most of the hotels and guesthouses are within 1 km from the actual town centre. There are some excellent accommodation options that range from the downtown hotels and guesthouses to the resort style options that are slightly out of town. There are several relatively new options appearing in the city that are booked up quickly in the high season, so it is practical to book early if planning the Indochina tour packages during the most popular travel times.
Eat and drink
The eating and drinking scene in Battambang is quite modest, but varied and interesting with a choice of inexpensive and high-end dining options. Some of the popular local restaurants include the Chinese Noodle and White Rose. Plus, there is an increase in dining establishments that are serving the international fare. Elsewhere, the walking district area is great for trying some of the more unique offerings.
The picturesque walking district consists of a relatively small area that is packed with a dozen bars and cafes, as well as several galleries and shops that are housed in the colonial styled buildings.
Other options for dining out include the riverfront night market at Psar Nath that makes it possible to try the local cuisine. The cafes and food stands in this area are very tourist friendly and relatively inexpensive. Cambodian fruit shakes, fried meats, pate sandwiches, soups and noodle dishes are very common. Also, there is a similar food scene near the Provincial Museum.
Battambang doesn’t have much in the way of nightlife, but there are still several spots that make a very pleasant destination to relax and have a drink. The Buffalo Alley cafe-bar is a popular attraction for the younger backpacker, which serves local drafts and a variety of travel snacks like spring rolls and fried rice. For the more upmarket drinking establishment, the Lotus Bar and Gallery is a great choice with its relatively late opening hours and ability to service cider, beer, wine and cocktails. This bar has a very welcoming atmosphere and even has special movie nights several times per week. Other local bars include the Riverside Balcony Bar, Here Be Dragons and Vintage Wine Bar.
The city of Battambang cannot really be described as a shopping mecca with relatively little here to interest the traveller that loves to shop. There are still a few shops here that offer something for those interested in gifts, handicrafts or souvenirs, but they are very limited compared to cities like Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
If you search around town you will find several cafes that offer a small selection of wares for sale, such as gifts for babies, jewelery, scarves, leather-bound notebooks, and clothing made with unique fabrics.
There is the local market at Psar Nath that offers a varied selection of goods, such as tools, homewares, fresh food, and plenty of items from China. Plus, there is a local supermarket that offers a similar line of wares.
Things to see and do
The Cambodia tour packages that include the city of Battambang make it possible to view pre-colonial and colonial-era architecture with plenty of historic and very old pagodas. Plus, this city is experiencing a boost in development that is helping to build a contemporary art scene and pleasant walking district that is rich in cafes and peaceful art spaces, as well as picturesque lanes and streets just further out of the market.
By taking a trek out of the main city into the countryside, it is not only possible to see the historic pagodas and Angkorian-era ruins but also the great village scenery and rice paddies. Even making the road trip to the historic sites can be enjoyable with its stunning views and scenery.
Tourists love to experience the creative and unique form of transportation known as the bamboo train. This is essentially a bamboo cart that is powered by small motorcycle engine and rides the local railroad tracks. There are several pickup and drop-off points to collect animals, cargo and passengers. The bamboo trains closest to the city seem to cater more to the tourist trade and a lot less to the locals nowadays, but it is still possible to get the real experience. A short ride on the bamboo train costs in the region of $5 per ride.
Similar to many cities throughout Southeast Asia, there is a great opportunity to join a cooking class to prepare Cambodian dishes. The start of the cooking class includes a visit to the local market to buy the basic ingredients. Once back at the kitchen, you get to learn anything there is to know about cooking several types of traditional Cambodian dishes. All students get to enjoy the food they just prepared and also given authentic recipes that can be tried once at home. Much of the morning or evening cooking classes cost in the region of $10 per person.
Battambang is a perfect destination to experience the beauty of the rural countryside and is within a relatively short distance of the main town. On reaching the countryside you get to see plenty of small villages with traditional stilted houses and rice paddies. By completing the trekking tour on the Cambodia Adventure Tours you also get to see first-hand the making of the many local products including fish paste, noodles and rice paper. This is a very interesting experience, although at first it can seem quite smelly and unhygienic. The roads in this region are particularly rough and can get quite dusty throughout the dry season.
The early Angkorian-era temple of Ek Phnom is about 45 minutes from Battambang. This temple hasn’t been well maintained and is now in a quite rough condition, but is still possible to see the Hindu themed carvings on the outer walls. Other temples nearby include the relatively modern Wat Ek Phnom which has a small lake a short distance away. The trip to Ek Phnom passes along a river road that gives some stunning countryside scenery that includes several small villages and the Stung Sangker River.
Situated on the mountaintop, Phnom Banan is an Angkorian-era ruin that dates back to the 11th century and includes five towers that are quite reminiscent of Angkor Wat. There are several parts of the temple that are still in good condition including the lintel carvings. Once you arrive at the top of the mountain, it is possible to get a complete view of the local surroundings and to experience a very peaceful location. Other attractions in the local area include the small caves, while there is also an active pagoda that is nearly 150 years old and located at the foot of the mountain. Both of these temples are relatively close to Phnom Sampeou Mountain which makes a further tourist attraction to explore.
There are plenty of pagodas in and around Battambang town that are well worth a visit on a tour package of Cambodia. Many are over 100 years of age and have the ability to display very unique architecture and art. Battambang town has nine pagodas of its own, with the Wat Kandal Temple one of the most interesting with its vihear paintings and architecture.
Phnom Sampeou Mountain
The Phnom Sampeou Mountain is a region steeped in legend that includes the Wat Sampeou at the summit and several caves in the area that were used by the Khmer Rouge as killing caves that still have many skeletal remains in place. Even though the Wat isn't overly stunning, the local surroundings and views are spectacular. The preferred method to climb the mountain is the winding path and not the stairs, which can make a very difficult climb to the top. Plus, if you are near the caves in the evening, you get the opportunity to witness thousands upon thousands of bats pouring into the dusk sky, which can take up to 25 minutes and is quite an interesting site that shouldn't be missed.
The Battambang Provincial Museum is situated in the centre of town near the riverfront and includes a solid collection of Angkorian artefacts such as ancient pottery, temples, carvings and statues. The museum houses plenty of unique and rare pieces that are certain to appeal to the Angkor enthusiast.