Sitting on the Sangker River just southwest of the Tonle Sap Lake, Battambang town is at the heart of Cambodia’s ‘rice bowl’, and even though it is one of the country’s largest towns it still has a very lightly visited, provincial atmosphere. Much of the architecture is colonial-era with traditional shophouses lining quaint narrow lanes. There are plenty of hotels in town these days including several new mid-range places. And a pleasant little walking district is taking shape in the old colonial blocks just south of the market – restaurants, cafes, a few shops and bars…
As you leave the town by road, the scenery quickly becomes one of villages and rice paddies, offering an excellent opportunity to see a bit of ‘unspoiled’ rural Cambodia. The nearby countryside harbors several picturesque old pagodas, Angkorian era ruins, caves, waterfalls, and even Khmer Rouge killing field.
‘Battambang’ means ‘disappearing stick,’ from the legend of a powerful staff wielded by the legendary ruler Ta Dambang to achieve and maintain power in the area. A statue of Ta Dambang and the stick stand imposingly at the eastern entrance to the town on Route #5.
Cambodia has a tropical monsoon climate. During the rainy season between mid-April and mid-October the Mekong swells and backs into the Tonle Sap (Great Lake), increasing the size of the lake almost threefold. Between November and April winds are less strong and there are higher temperatures (up to 35?C). General information about the climate:
Rainy season: June – October (<31c)
- Cool season: November- February (>26c)
- Hot season: March- May: Temperature: from 28c -35c
HOW TO GET THERE
Phnom Penh to Battambang
Road (291km, National Route #5): The road is paved and in good condition.
Bus: Several bus companies (including Phnom Penh Sorya, Ponleu Angkor, Rith Mony and Capitol Tours) run multiple daily buses between Phnom Penh to Battambang. First bus departs at 6:30AM and the last at 3:00PM. Fare: 17,000R-20,000R. The trip takes 5 hours. In Battambang, buses depart from the various transportation company offices. See the map.
Taxi: A private taxi is $45. Shared taxi: 25,000R per person. 4 hours. Prices for shared local transport are very nominal, but are also crowded and uncomfortable. Buy more than one place for the extra leg room.
Air: There are currently no regularly scheduled flights to Battambang.
Siem Reap to Battambang
Boat: Daily ferry departs in each direction at 7:00am. $18-$25/person. It’s a picturesque, 6-8 hour journey across the Tonle Sap and along the Sangker River in the wet season, but can be considerably longer or cancelled in the dry season due to low water levels. Ask about current conditions. The boats in no way meet international safety standards.
Road: (National Routes #6 and #5, via Sisophon): The road from Battambang to Siem Reap around the west side of the lake is in excellent condition.
Bus: At least four bus companies (including Capitol Tours, Phnom Penh Sorya and Rith Mony) run two or three daily a/c buses, most leaving in the morning. Buy tickets at the bus company office. $4-$5, 2½-3 hours.
Taxi: A private taxi costs $40-$45 and takes about 3 hours.
Air : There are currently no regularly scheduled flights to Battambang.
THINGS TO SEE & DO IN BATTAMBANG
WAT EK PHNOM
Ek Phnom is an 11th century Angkorian-era ruin built as a Hindu temple under Suryavarman I. Situated about 10 km north of the Cobra Bridge are the ruins of Ek Phnom an 11th century Angkorian-era ruin built as a Hindu temple under Suryavarman I. It was built during the Bayon period and unfortunately is much worse for the wear than Phnom Banan.It’s an interesting place, however, because there is a freshly constructed working temple right in front of the ruins. This temple, along with the temple ruins, is the center of holiday festivities for the people of the nearby village. They dress up in their Sunday best and have a celebration between the old and the new temples and climb all around the ruins with their families. The temple consists of prasats on a platform with some carvings in fairly good condition. Wat Ek Phnom, a modern pagoda, sits next to the ruin. From Battambang, an absolutely beautiful countryside drive passing through small villages and rice paddies to Ek Phnom awaits visitors.
Phnom Banan is a mountaintop, mid-11th century Angkorian-era ruin consisting of five prasats (towers) arranged in the quincunx (five-pointed) form reminiscent of Angkor Wat. The temple was built by the Khmer ruler Udayadityavarman II, son of Suryavarman I, the king who built the temple at Ek Phnom. Several lintel carvings are in good condition. The mountaintop is a peaceful location with a sweeping view of the surrounding area. There is a small cave nearby known as L’Ang But Meas. A very old (150 years+) active pagoda at the base of the mountain. As both are south of Battambang City, the trip to Phnom Banan is often combined with a stop at Phnom Sampeou.
Phnom Sampeou means ‘Ship mountain’ because its peculiar shape reminds of a ship. This legendary 100 metres high mountain, topped by Wat Sampeou, contains 3 natural caves, lined with Buddhist shrines and statues: Pkasla, Lakhaon and Aksopheak. Pkasla cave is full of uprooted stones and is considered important because Sampeou inhabitants go there to celebrate after a marriage. Some caves were used by the Khmer Rouges as killing caves. Skeletons of their victims still remain in the caves. The wat is approached by a flight of 700 stairs. It is not exceptional but the view is spectacular. Next to Phnom Sampeou are several important mountain clusters.
Phnom Sampeou is a natural site located along National Road 57 in Sampeou Commune, Battambang district, about 12Kilometers of Battambang city. Atop a 100-meter-high mountain stands a pagoda and three natural caves: Pkasla, Lakhaon and Aksopheak. Pkasla cave is full of uprooted stones and is considered important because it is where Phnom Sampeou residents come to celebrate after a marriage.
The bamboo train is a unique and creative form of ad-hoc local transportation. It consists of a small motorcycle engine-powered bamboo cart that rides the railroad tracks, picking up and dropping off passengers, cargo, animals, motorcycles along the way. When it meets on-coming train or bamboo train, it can be disassembled and taken off the rails in a minute or two, allowing the other to pass. Cambodia is currently in the process of upgrading its rail system. When the Battambang tracks are replaced, the Bamboo Train will likely come to an end. If you ever wanted to try the bamboo train, it’s now or never.
PHNOM TRONG MORN TRONG TEA
Phnom Trong Morn Trong Tea, Battambang is one of the place which is filled with abundant number of flora and fauna and are well liked by the nature loving tourists in particular. This is the place which comes as one of the important tourist destination where you are going to enjoy a whole days’ trip and find it to be a place to remember for a long time for its endless beauty. The place is widely popular for its rich treasure of natural vegetation. Phnom Trong Morn Trong Tea is a place belongs to the category of Nature wildlife and Preserves.
Battambang town and the surrounding countryside are rich with beautiful old pagodas, some of them hundreds of years old, highly respected and displaying some very unique art and architecture. There are nine pagodas in Battambang town alone. In town, Wat Kandal displays some of the most interesting architecture and vihear paintings. Wat Tahm Rei Saw, built in 1903, is one of those rare Cambodian wats to display paintings of the Hindu epic Reamker. See absolutely indispensable Around Battambang for more information about visiting the local pagodas.
The Battambang Provincial Museum on the riverfront in the center of town houses a large collection of Angkorian and pre-Angkorian artifacts – statues, carvings, bits of ancient temples, pottery, etc. These little provincial museums can be a real treat for the Angkor enthusiast, containing some rare and unique pieces, and this is one of the best of the provincial museums. Hours: 8:00AM-11:00AM / 2:00PM-5:00PM, make reservations for weekend visit and they will open the door for you. Friendly people always happy to see visitors. Guides available. Admission: US$1.00.
Barsaet Temple is located in Barsaet Villlage, Tapoan commune, Sangke District, about 15 kilometers east of Battambang provincial town. The temple was built in the 11th century, between AD 1036 and 1042, during the region of King Suryavarman I (AD 1002-1050). This temple was seriously damaged, and only the door frame remains. Next to this temple, there is an ancient pond that is 20 meters long, 12 meters wide and 10 meters deep. It hold water year round.
SHOPPING IN BATTAMBANG
Traditionally, Battambang was a place to buy marble and wood carvings, cut and uncut sapphires and Pursat oranges. It still is, but Battambang has also been taking on an artier air of late, with a couple/few new art and shopping venues opening amongst the quaint old colonial shophouses, especially in the walking district in the blocks just south of Phsar Nath.
Phsar Nath in town is the main phsar (traditional market,) geared to the locals, vending the usual fruits, vegetables, meat, clothes, sundries, etc. Gem dealers, a couple of banks, photo shops and moneychangers line the streets that ring the phsar. Phsar Leu, just south of town, is the place to buy local fruits: oranges and pomelos from Pursat. The oranges are said to be the best in the country.
Chea Neang Drink Shop is a small convenience store on the west side of Phsar Nath, popular with foreigners and offering ice cream bars, cheeses, yogurt, wines, and other imported items.
The Smiling Sky Bookshop Second hand bookshop dealing in English language books – Cambodia related titles, novels, popular literature. Buy sell trade. Road #3.
There are a fair number of eateries in town, both local and foreigner-run. These days you can have an authentic Cambodian meal or a fine French dinner, enjoy a cup of espresso at a riverside cafe and even party late into the evening at the bar. Several restaurants including a couple with bars are clustered in the walking district just south of the market. For local street food check out Street 2 path through Phsar Nath and the riverfront park near the Provincial Museum.