Battambang is Cambodia's second most populous city, and a popular tourist destination due to the many nearby ancient temples, Buddhist shrines and the infamous bamboo railway. It is also the capital city of the Battambang province.
Map of Battambang
National Highway 5 is paved and from Battambang runs southeast to Phnom Penh and northwest to Sisophon and Poipet. At Sisophon, National Highway 6 branches off to provide paved access to Siem Reap. In a car, Phnom Penh is around 4 hrs away and Sisophon can be reached in just under an hour. By bus, Phnom Penh take about five-six hours and cost about US$4. Siem Reap takes at least three hours and costs US$3.75.
Highway 57 from Battambang to Pailin was paved in 2010. Paramount Angkor Buses run twice daily from Battambang to Pailin (2 hours) for US$4.
One boat a day travels from Siem Reap (for Angkor) to Battambang, departing Siem Reap at 7AM. An interesting and very scenic journey along small rivers, the boat threads it's way through numerous charming floating villages and past dozens of towering cantilevered fishing net installations. It can take between 4-12 hr, depending on the time of year (and hence the water level), however the time can be fairly accurately predicted by checking the time that the same boat arrived yesterday.
During the dry season, when the water level gets very low, the boats cannot get all the way to Battambang and the journey is completed by minibus or pick-up truck.
Cambodia's defunct rail system is due to be regenerated by 2013. The line runs from Poipet on the Thai border through Sisophon and along the southern side of the Tonle Sap Lake to Battambang and Phnom Penh.
The city center is pretty compact and can be mostly explored by foot. Bicycles can be rented from most hotels or private companies for US$1-2 per day. Motorcycles can be rented from US$5 a day. The driving habits of locals are hazardous. Police may try to fine tourists on motobikes. If pulled over, stay calm, smile, take the key out of the ignition (to prevent the police trying to ransom it), and pay a small fine of US1-2. Arguing, waving your driving licence in their faces or otherwise upsetting the police is not smooth behaviour.
Tuk-tuks and motorbike drivers hang around popular tourist areas. As most of the interesting and useful destinations are quite close to each other, most rides should only cost you around US$2-US$4. More distant trips like Phnom Sampouv (the 'killing caves') will cost around US$10, and can be combined with other destinations for a total of US$12-$15.
Small boats act as ferries (500 Riel) and cross the river in front of the market.
Battambang is known for its statues which seemingly decorate every public place. Most are of animals (mythical and real) and divinities.
The most famous of these statues is on the main road in from Phnom Penh and is of an ancient Khmer King holding a stick which he used to quell rebellions in the Battambang area. The name of the town / province comes from this legend.
Battambang's central market
Check out riverside dancing along the river around dusk. Some serious K-Pop action goes down.
The town also has a number of fine colonial buildings along the river including a very grand French era governors residence.
Phnom Sampeu's Killing Caves
Phnom Sampeu, a hill with the Killing Caves of the Khmer Rouge, a few others caves adorned with Buddhist statues, and a monastery with two Buddhist Stupas on the hilltop. Entry is US$2 - also covering Wat Banan - and it takes about an hour to climb the circuit to the monastery on top, with a short-cut leading back down to the shops and restaurants which line the approaching road.
Wat Banan, the so-called mini-Angkor wat, an impressive flight of stairs lead up to a dilapidated Angkor-style temple which is still in use as a Buddhist shrine.
Wat Baydamram, a temple where hundreds of fruit bats live in trees under the protection of the Buddhist monks.
Wat Ek Phnom
Wat Ek Phnom, another Angkor-type temple ruin, about 15km north west of Battambang. The road runs along lovely small rivers flanked by trees and small villages making it a generally nice area. Approaching Wat Ek Phnom, you suddenly encounter a giant Buddha statue in the Wat, which is certainly picture-worthy. The grounds of the Wat also have an Angkorian era temple which is in relatively good shape and with some interesting carvings.
Wat Samraong Knong, roughly translated as 'Wat in the forest' is an extremely old pagoda on the eastern side of the Sangker River. The eerie old Wat was used as a Khmer Rouge prison, and there were many executions on the premises. A new pagoda is now being built, and there is a memorial to the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, with graphic illustrations just to the north.
Now There are several opportunities to explore villages just south of town. The Cultural village of Watkor, just a few kilometers south of the town centre has several "ancient wooden houses" from the early 20th century. Further south are the agricultural villages of Kompong Seyma, and Ksach Puoy. For info call District Administration Battambang: ☎ +855 1288 1516, +855 1666 6111.
Battambang Circus, Phare Ponleu Selpak (10 min journey in tuk-tuk from the centre of Battambang-most drivers know the the circus), ☎ +855 53 952 424, . Performances every Mon and Thurs from 6PM. The shows are fun, energetic and exciting and include a range of circus disciplines. The ticket price helps support the NGO school which works with disadvantaged children and teenagers. US$8.
The bamboo train near Battambang
Rent a bicycle and cycle along the river. Upstream (south) or downstream (north). Both directions are flat and mostly paved, and it is possible to cycle along the river bank for a considerable distance, of up to 20km each way.
The Bamboo Train: (The term "train" being used loosely - A large bamboo platform mounted on train axles powered by a small go-kart engine). A trip to the train can be booked in most hotels or arranged with a motorbike/tuk-tuk driver. Currently it is regulated by Battambang's Tourist Police, with a standard rate of US$5 per person, minimum 2 people or US$10 for one person, with discounts for larger groups. It is worthwhile to ask the driver to stop at scenic places.
Green Orange Kayak, ☎ +855 77 204 121. Go on a beautiful Stung Sangker river voyage from the small village of Ksach Poy to Battambang, past riverside terraces and traditional bamboo houses. Get away from the dusty roads and learn first hand about traditional fishing and farming techniques. Half day trip, 11km.US$12.
Take a Cooking class
Many restaurants around Battambang offer cooking classes at varying prices.
The Smoking Pot, Daily courses priced at US$8.
Ch'Ngainh Ch'Ngainh, A homely and familial approach to cookery, this class is carried in a family home. (email@example.com) ☎ +855 12 63 93 50. Daily courses priced at US$10.
Nary Kitchen, Svay Por Battambang, ( opposite the Holiday Guesthouse). ☎+855 1276 3950.
There are plenty of places to eat but after 7PM some places close and lots of streets become dark, so eating early (around 6PM) is recommended.
You can get some great French-style bread (by French standards) for 1000 KHR a medium-size baguette up North, between the French cultural centre and the giant statue marking the entry in Battambang from the main interprovincial road. The bread that street sellers have elsewhere in town is of a much lower standard for the same price, similar to that found in Phnom Penh a baguette-shape, but sprinkled with sugar, however some people do not notice any difference between the bread sold in the north and elsewhere in Battambang. It is generally of decent quality all across the city.
Au Cabaret Vert Restaurant (Au Cabaret Vert-Hôtel à Battambang), Toul Ta Ek, Otakom 2 (5 min from the market by tuk-tuk), ☎ +885 53 656 2000,+885 77 991 384 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Traditional Cambodian dishes, their speciality is fish amok, complemented by a French-style menu that includes desserts and wine.US$9-16 for a main course, entrees US$8-12.
Bamboo Train Café & Bar', (Cross the new bridge, 200m further and it's on the right hand side just after the pizza house), (email@example.com). 6:30AM-10PM. Relaxed atmosphere, delicious food and friendly staff(N 13° 05.549',E 103° 12.178')
Cafe Eden, (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A Western style riverfront cafe restaurant run by an American woman. Serves Western and Asian food, and coffee. Kitchen works to Western food handling and preparation standards.(13.099622,103.199188)
Gecko Cafe, Street # 3 (One block South of Psa Nath Market). Nice atmosphere, limited but very tasty menu, free wifi.
Natural (Part of the project of an NGO called Coconut Water Foundation), N091-G34 Road 3. 20 Ousaphear Village, Svaypoar Commune (street no 3, 100 m south of the central market), ☎ +855 89 409 958. A shop and organic coffee place. The shop sells handmade clothes, bags and wallets made by local home based producers and from other local NGOs, watercolour post cards and pictures made by art students from another NGO. Organic fruit shakes, green tea with fruits and vegetarian breakfast & brunch options. There is also a khmer lady weaving using an authentic old style loom.
Smokin' Pot, Ph.3. Cooking school-come-restaurant offering a good range of Khmer and Thai food. Vegetarian-friendly. Note that there are two establishments called "Smokin' Pot" a few blocks apart.Mains 8,000-20,000 KHR.
White Rose, (Almost opposite the Smoking Pot). Huge menu, and some great fruit shakes. This place is more typically Asian-style than Western-style cosy but is still full of foreigners. The staff seem a bit stressed and not very hospitable. A plus is that they're quick and remember everything as you ordered it.
Apple of Love (La Pomme d'Amour), street 2.5, #63, ☎ +885 12 415 513, +885 12 963 189, . 7AM-10PM. Khmer cuisine with a French twist, sophisticated and creative with pleasant staff. Wine list available.
Espresso Cafe, (Beside Hotel Royal, inner side of yellow art-deco market). Everything is provided with a smile. Great smoothies. A good family-run Khmer restaurant.
Street One and a Half, End of St 1.5 (head south from central market on St.2, hang a left and find it at the end/corner of that little street). Good cafe menu with a few snacks but mainly just excellent coffee and drinks. Easily best espresso in town, very cool alleyway atmosphere.
Center Cafe, Street Number 3 (one block towards the river from the Lux Hotel). 7:30AM - midnight. Cheap and tasty western and Khmer dishes, usual beer coffee and smoothies, nice atmosphere and tours/bus tickets available at prices much cheaper than the hotels (half the price for a day-bus ticket to Phnom Penh than what the Lux hotel quotes). Staff speak decent English and the manager/owner is very friendly.US$1-5.
Madison Corner, Street 2.5, . 6AM-late. The unique Pub in town. Enjoy a drink, draft beer, cocktail, home-made rum and a large variety of ice creams and local snacks. Some of the best crepes in Cambodia. A Battambang meeting place. Great place for breakfast an espresso before catching the boat to Siem Reap.
Fresh Eats, Street 2.5 (A few doors down from Apple of Love/La Pomme d'Amour). NGO restaurant with a reasonably-priced menu with lots of fruit juices, breakfast foods and make-your-own sandwiches.
Ancient House (Homestay in Watkor village), (100m south of Watkor temple and a few km south of town), ☎ +855 12 363174. Talk with Madame Boun Roeung (who speaks some French but no English) about the possibility of staying in her "Ancient House." Accommodation is simple, with foam mattresses on the floor. Other owners of ancient houses may also be open to this.
Bungalow Restaurant and Guesthouse, Battambang. Amongst flowering gardens and tropical fruit trees. Good for really relaxing atmosphere and very good western and Thai food.
Holiday Hotel, #695, St.4, ☎ +855 81 999 006, . Good hotel with elevator and large reception area. Rooms have A/C, wifi, cableTV and ensuite.US$15-20.
Seng Hout Hotel, No. #1008B, Road 02 (North of Psar Nat Market 50m, Prekmohatep, next door to the White Rose Restaurant and around the corner from the Smoking Pot), ☎ +855 53 952 900, cell +855 12 530 327 (email@example.com), . Good hotel with elevator and large reception area. Rooms have A/C or optional cheaper fan, wifi, cable TV and ensuite. Rooftop cafe with 360⁰ views. Newly built in 2008 with cableTV, A/C, refrigerator and hot and cold water, free wifi. Rates inc taxes and pick up any station in Battambang cityMarch 2011-Standard room promo rate US$16, double occupancy. Standard single (VIP) US$ 18 nett/room (max 2 guests).Standard double US$15 nett/room (maximum 2-3 guests). Standard twin US$15 nett/room (max 2 guests).
Chhaya Hotel and Serviced Apartments, 118, Street 3, Svaypor, ☎ +855 53 952170, +855 12 882500 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Opened in June 2010, single, double and triple rooms, both A/C and non A/C, cable TV available. The cheaper hotel rooms have a shared bathroom, the more expensive ones have private facilities and a refrigerator. Serviced apartments newly opened in June 2010 and have large rooms with kitchenette and balconies, large ensuite, wifi, cableTV. 24 hr security, free airport/bus station/boat harbour transfers.Hotel: US$4-12, apartments: US$20/night or US$270/mth.
Tomato Backpacker Hostel, Restaurant and Bar, 20 Ushaphea Village (behind LUX Guest House), ☎ +855 12 85 34 39. Very friendly place with ensuite rooms for just $3 and dorms for $2. Has only 4 rooms in total on first floor that also has nice restaurant balcony. Great value for anyone on a tight budget.US$3-$10.
Hotel Royal, (On a side street west of the central market), ☎ +855 16 944955. Rooftop restaurant. Spacious rooms with bathroom, hot water and A/C. Clean singles and doubles available with shared bathroom and toilets.US$3-US$25.
Golden River Hotel, Street 3 (A few blocks down from Hotel Chhaya and just before the sign posted turn for the train station). Good clean hotel with the standard facilities you will find elsewhere in Battambang. Staff are helpful and friendly.From US$5.
Lux Guest House, ☎ +855 92 335767. Built in 2009, rooms include hot water, aircon, fan, cable TV, free wifi, fridge and minibar. Rooms are big clean and nicely decorated, as goes for the entire hotel. Staff are friendly, helpful and a little bit shy. Location is close to nice eating places and at a road which is lit at night.US$8-23.
Teo Hotel, St.3, ☎ +855 53 952288, (mobile) +855 12 8570487. Immaculately clean and well-maintained rooms with double bed, A/C and fan, hot water, TV, and mini-fridge. Visa and MasterCard accepted. If you are in a room far from the router then wifi reception may be very poor or unavailable. Indoor restaurant is closed. Unhelpful staff.From US$10.
Khemara Battambang Hotel, No 224, Old National Rd No 5, Roumcheck 4 Village, Sangkat Rathanak., ☎ +855 53 732727, . Very comfortable beds, clean rooms with internet access (LAN cable, but in some rooms a connection from a nearby wifi network is available), TV, A/C, fan and a fridge. Car parking possible. Also has great outdoor swimming pool. In room massage available from US$5/hr. Bicycle hire US$4/day.US$15 or $25 VIP. (13.11599,103.20299)
President Hotel. * Banan Hotel, National Road No 5, ☎ +855 77 707789. +855 61 577777 (email@example.com), . Close to bus station and city centre. Helpful staff. Free WiFi, free bicycles.US$15/$25. US$15/$25.
Au Cabaret Vert, Toul Ta Ek, Otakom 2, ☎ +855 53 656 2000, +855 77 991384 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . New hotel with bungalows around a natural swimming pool. Library, parking, free internet, tours, car and motorbike, electric bike and tuk-tuk hire arranged, international telephone, laundry and historic film screenings.US$50-66 for 2 PAX, with breakfast.
La Villa, N 185 Pom Romchek 5 Kom, Rattanak Srok, ☎ +855 5373 0151 , mob +855 1741 1880 (email@example.com, fax: +855 5373 0151), . Guest house with a swimming pool in a renovated 1930s French colonial period villa, art-deco furniture and fittings. 7 rooms available (6 in the main house and 1 in the house nearby the swimming pool). Each room has a private toilet with bath or shower, hot and cold water, A/C, fan, TV and cable network, 4 poster bed with mosquito net, light summer duvet, wardrobe, work desk, safety box, coffee and tea facilities, DVD player with DVD for rent. Located just across the river from the central market. Book ahead as it is often full.from US$55-100.
Bambu Hotel, Phum Romchek 5, Sangkat Rottanak, KO Street, ☎ +855 53 953900 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +855 53 953951), . 16 rooms, inc 4 suite rooms (32 sq m incl bathroom), 6 deluxe superior rooms (27 sq m incl bathroom), 4 deluxe standard rooms (27 sq m incl bathroom). All have en suite bathrooms, A/C, telephone, flat screen cable TV, DVD player, access to DVD library, iPod docker, mini bar, room safe and private terrace or balcony. Free wifi, 2 computer terminals in reception for use by guests, salt water swimming pool (14m x 6) open from 8AM-9PM. Restaurant open 6AM-10PM, wine, beers, juices and soft drinks available from bar.From US$66.
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