BattambangBattambang: Where history rides on bamboo trains.
Discover Battambang, Cambodia's second-largest city known for its colonial architecture, vibrant markets, and nearby ancient temples.
Battambang, Cambodia's second-largest city, sits along the Sangkae River, a focal point for its agricultural and trading history. Distinguished by French colonial architecture and ancient temples, such as the well-known Wat Banan, the city is also a gateway to the nearby Phnom Sampeau, a hill with significant historical caves. Battambang's blend of history, culture, and daily life centers around its busy markets and thriving arts scene, including the celebrated Phare Ponleu Selpak circus.
Wat Banan and Phnom Sampeau
The landscape of Battambang is dotted with historical landmarks that are a testament to the city's past. Wat Banan, known for its striking similarities to Angkor Wat, is perched atop a hill and offers panoramic views of the countryside after a climb up its 358 steps. Another significant site is Phnom Sampeau, a limestone mountain known for the Killing Caves - a grim reminder of the Khmer Rouge era. Visitors can pay respects at the memorial inside the caves and then explore the hill’s intricate temple complex, which includes the Golden Buddha statue.
Traditional Cambodian Cuisine
Battambang is an ideal place to experience traditional Cambodian cuisine. Local specialties such as "Bai Sach Chrouk" (pork and rice) and "Lap Khmer" (lime-marinated beef salad) can be found in the bustling streets and markets. For an authentic dining experience, try Nary Kitchen, which also offers cooking classes for those interested in learning how to prepare Cambodian dishes themselves.
Cultural Traditions at Phare Ponleu Selpak
The city is also home to Phare Ponleu Selpak, a vibrant arts center that nurtures creativity and provides social support. The center's circus performances, known for their high energy and cultural storytelling, are not to be missed. These performances occur regularly and provide insight into the current generation's interpretation of Cambodian culture and history.
Exploring Battambang Markets
Battambang's markets are a hive of activity where visitors can experience the local vibe firsthand. The bustling Psar Nat central market is housed in a notable art deco building where you can find anything from fresh produce to clothing and souvenirs. For travelers looking for affordability, this is also the perfect place to haggle and secure a bargain.
Natural Landscapes around Battambang
For nature enthusiasts, the areas surrounding Battambang offer verdant landscapes ripe for exploration. Just a short ride from the city, visitors can find themselves amidst lush rice paddies, traditional rural villages, and the serene Sangkae River. Those looking for adventure can take a ride on the Bamboo Train through picturesque fields and local villages.
Daily Life in Battambang
To experience the daily life and atmosphere of Battambang, take a leisurely walk along the riverfront where locals gather in the late afternoon. Alternatively, visit the Governor’s Residence to witness an example of preserved French colonial architecture that contributes to the city's unique aesthetic.
Getting Around Battambang
Navigating Battambang can be easily done on foot or by hiring a bicycle, motorbike, or tuk-tuk. For longer excursions or to reach attractions like Phnom Sampeau, it's best to hire a tuk-tuk for the day, which provides flexibility and local insight into the sites you visit.