Battambang is a pleasant enough small town, but the biggest attractions are in the countryside surrounding Battambang. Not only is the scenery beautiful with rice paddies and traditonal villages, there are lots of things to see and do. Here we present some ideas of what to do around Battambang.
Spending a day on the back of a motorbike going around the villages and sites near Battambang is one of the best ways to take in Cambodia’s countryside while getting a bit of an adrenaline kick.
The province of Battambang is known as the rice basket of Cambodia and a ride out into the countryside will bring you to beautiful rustic scenes of cattle pulling cats, free-range pigs, ducks on the water, local planting or harvesting the rice, a game of football at the end of the day and so on. Check out some of the local products in the making – rice paper, noodles and the fishpaste market.
Phnom Sampeau is a striking limestone hill near Battambang, 18 kilometers out of town. It rises abruptly out of the flat surrounding land and was a strategic military site in times past and used as a prison by the Khmer Rouge. On the top there is Wat Sampeau. On one side of the mountain is a cave with many bones of victims from the KR time.
Wat Banan is an ancient temple. Angkor-lite, smaller, older, and virtually tourist-free. The 359 steps to the temple are steep and tiring, but the height provides worthwhile bird’s-eye views over the flatlands of Northwestern Cambodia.
The Bamboo Train
Another good way to take in the countryside around Battambang is a ride on the bamboo train (called ‘norry’). It is a unique and creative form of local transportation. It consists of a small motorcycle engine-powered bamboo cart that rides the railroad rails picking up and dropping off passengers, cargo, animals and motorcycles along the way. When it meets on on-coming bamboo train, it can be disassembled and taken off the rails in a minute or two, allowing the other to pass.
Mind you, there are virtually no ‘normal’ trains on Cambodia’s rails as the network is in bad shape. That might change in the coming years as there are plans to opgrade the network and connect it to neighbouring Thailand.
A trip to the train can be booked in most hotels or arranged for with a motorbike/tuk-tuk driver. Expect to pay additional for the train (a special ‘tourist charter’ should cost no more than 10 USD per half-hour). Ask for an estimate of the price directly with the driver and get him to bargain the price for you by linking his own pay to the price you will get for the norry.
Located along the Sangker River, 2km south of Battambang town, lie the cultural and agricultural villages of Wat Kor Commune where visitors can enjoy an insight into the Cambodian way of life.
The village is known for its wooden houses, some of which were constructed in the early 20th century. Explore the simplicity of Khmer housing of the past and present, and step inside to discover the Cambodian way of living. The owners and families will happily take you around, explaining the history of their homes and sharing their life stories.
Then, travel from village to village the traditional way – by ox cart. This can be arranged in Kompong Seyma village. At Ksach Puoy, taste and enjoy the variety of unusual fruits available. For information on trips to these villages, contact the District Office in Battambang.