Over the centuries Battambang switched hands between Thailand and Cambodia, and was under Thai control as late as the 1940s. The people of Battambang did resist the initial coup d’état of the Khmer Rouge but succumbed under heavy fighting, and the area became a Khmer Rouge stronghold.
These days Battambang is a peaceful and pleasant place.
Battambang is primarily a farmer and trader town and makes a refreshing change from the tourist town of Siem Reap as it still has a very local, untouristed, provincial atmosphere.
The name is pronounced as Bahd-dum-bong and the town sits on the west bank of the Sangker River, a tranquil, small body of water that winds its way through Battambang Province.
The boat trip to Siem Reap goes via the Sangker river and is undoubtedly the most picturesque in the country, although it’s best to do this trip in the wet season when water levels are high.
The city is also the heart of Cambodia’s ‘rice bowl’ but that’s not the only crop here. You will also see fields of mango, papaya, jackfruit, milkfruit, peanuts, corn, and green beans.
Furthermore, Battambang has a strong colonial history, evident in the town’s many French-style villas and storefronts, although quite a few of them are in desperate need of repairs.
The Battambang Museum houses a limited but attractive collection of sculpted lintels and other artifacts from all over Battambang Province, including pieces from Phnom Banan and Sneng. Next door to the Museum is a small exhibition area that often has interesting displays featuring information on local agriculture and fishing practices, and local legends and folk tales.
A local NGO, Phare Ponleu Selpak, gives youths from deprived backgrounds the opportunity to channel their energies creatively learning skills such as juggling, tumbling, acrobatics and clowning, whilst raising public awareness of issues such as HIV/AIDS, landmines, and child rights. Other activities include traditional schooling, drawing, music, dressmaking, and a community leisure centre.
It started back in 1986 in a refugee camp located on the Thai border. From simple drawing workshops for children in the camps, the idea emerged of an association that would use art and expression to help young refugees overcome the trauma of war. The experiment continued after the refugees returned to their homeland in Battambang. The performance schedule is published on the Phare Ponleu SelpakCircus performances in Battambang[/caption] website.
Legend of the Magic Stick
At the traffic circle on the eastern end of the city, there is a statue of Ta Dumbong (pictured at the top of this page).
This Ta Dumbong is at the center of a legend from which the name Battambang is derived. He was a cowherd who found a magic stick and used it to usurp the then-king. The king’s son ran off to the woods and became a monk.
In the meantime, Ta Dambong had a dream that a holy man on a white horse would vanquish him, so he decided it would be a good idea to have all the holy men rounded up and put to death.
When the prince, now a practicing monk, heard he was required to go into town a hermit came up and gave him a white horse. When the prince got on the horse he discovered it could fly and he flew into town. Upon seeing this holy man on a flying white horse Ta Dambong realised his dream was coming true, in an attempt to kill the ‘holy man’, he threw his magic stick at him, but seeing this fail he fled the area.
Neither he nor the magic stick was ever seen again.
See also Around Battambang