Are you planning to visit Battambang?
Here’s a guide to planning a trip in Battambang that it can help you.
Battambang is a wonderful city located on the Sangkae River in North West Cambodia. It is actually Cambodia’s second largest city with over 250,000 residents. The name Battambang or Batdambang, literally means “loss of stick” referring to a legend of the Preah Bat Dambang Kranhoung (Kranhoung Stick King).
The Bamboo Train, Battambang
The most well-known thing to do in Battambang is the Bamboo train. It’s literally a train made out of bamboo. But not a typical train you are imaging. Rather it looks like the picture below.
This is what they had previously used to transport foods up and down the city.
Meeting another train on the track travelling in the opposite direction is an event in itself: the train with the fewest passengers has to be dismantled and cleared to the side to allow the other train to pass – an impressively swift operation.
The whole trip takes about an hour, including a rest stop at the end of the line where friendly Khmer families sell food, drinks, clothes and souvenirs.
Cambodia’s Phare Circus is based in Battambang, and a visit to the city is a fantastic opportunity to see the show on its home turf. Phare Ponleu Selpak is a local NGO that trains disadvantaged youth in the art of circus, which takes years to master. The circus features acrobatics, gymnastics, and tumbling, for an international-quality show.
About 20 kilometres out of town, Banan Temple is a good example of the Khmer architecture that this region is well known for. It was built in the eleventh century and involves a long climb to the top up a steep staircase.
At the top are beautiful views of the winding Sangker River set amidst sugar palm trees, rice fields and small villages.
Close to Wat Banan is the Prassat Banan vineyard, the only such one in Cambodia. Visitors are welcome to drop by to sample and perhaps buy some of the wines made here. They also make a brandy which is very palatable!
Wat Ek Phnom
A large Buddhist temple has been built in front of an old Angkorian ruin which gives a great contrast between ancient and new. Built in the 11th century during the Bayon period, the ruins measure 52m by 49m and are partly overgrown with moss, grass and trees. Wat Ek Phnom is falling apart and has not really been restored so crawling all over the temple gives the impression that you are the one discovering this impressive place.
Construction of the giant Buddha statue next door has been stopped by the government. This is a very popular picnic and pilgrimage destination for Khmers at festival times.
Phnom Sampeu is a huge hill that was used by the Khmer Rouge as a place to commit the atrocities that occurred between 1975 and 1979 in Cambodia. It is a haunting yet beautiful place that is best explored with a guide.
Walking through the caves that were the scene of such tragic and needless acts is emotionally scarring. It is tough to see, but a must to truly understand the history of what happened during Pol Pot’s regime.
Besides the caves there is a spectacular viewpoint where you can see right across the Battambang region, as well as a temple to explore. At dusk thousands and thousands of bats (the locals say over a million) move out from the mouths of the caves to form a spectacular sight as they paint formations across the sky.
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Enjoy your stay in Cambodia!