Your Cambodian adventure: 5 of the best things to see and do in Battambang

Visit Cambodia’s third-largest city, Battambang, and you can immerse yourself in its rich cultural history and have a lot of fun along the way. Here is our pick of five of the most meaningful sights and experiences you can have while travelling in the region.

#1 Ride the Bamboo Train

Listen to the click of the train against the track, breathe in the scent of rice fields, and enjoy the cool breeze while riding the Bamboo Train (also known as a “norry”).

The Bamboo Train consists of a bamboo platform with wooden frames fixed to wheels and axles. It’s powered by a small motor and rides along a 4-kilometre track, starting from O’Dambang village and ending at O’Sralau village.

As there is no end destination, the highlight is the ride itself. You’ll see beautiful countryside with lush greenery, tiny huts, farmers and women carrying wooden baskets. Once you arrive at O’Sralau village, you can talk to the locals and find vendors selling various snacks, scarves, and souvenirs.

Wondering about the rules? Just one rule to remember: if another cart is coming from the opposite direction, the lighter cart will be physically removed from the track to give way to the heavier cart.

The ticket is $5. A tuk-tuk ride from anywhere in downtown Battambang can take you to the Bamboo Train for $4-$6. The tracks open as early as 6:00 because the carts also carry livestock, crops, wood, and other cargo. Be prepared for bumpy ride at times, because some sections are damaged.

#2 See a performance at the Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus

Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus (otherwise known simply as Battambang Circus) is one of the main reasons travellers visit Battambang.

All performers are trained by professionals of the famous Phare Ponleu Selpak Artistic and Social Centre, a generous non-government association dedicated to helping children, young adults, and their families through art.

At the circus, you can watch some really cool displays: artists juggle fire, walk across a wire, stand on a stick, and twist their bodies. You’ll also get to witness the exciting traditional Cambodian dance. And you’ll be glad to hear that no animals are used in any of the performances.

Before the circus even begins, you can grab an early dinner at the Artist’s cafe or pick up a souvenir from the boutique — you can even buy popcorn made with real oil and butter!

Circus tickets cost $14 for adults and $7 for children. Doors open at 18:00, and the show starts at 19:00, and will be at least an hour long. You may buy tickets at the door or from a retailer. Email the circus to reserve tickets ahead of time.

#3 Enjoy panoramic views at the Banan Temple

After climbing 358 steps to the Banan Temple, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of Battambang. This 11th-century ruin is thought to be a model of Angkor Wat (but much smaller). It sits on top of a hill 20 km south of Battambang, and it has fantastic views of small villages, rice paddies and the Sanker River.

The temple has been subject to looting, but some beautiful carvings still remain. Expect to see people offering prayers, flowers and incense, because it is a holy place for the locals, and be sure to keep your knees and elbows covered.

Food stalls line the path towards the temple, so you can easily get a snack after that climb.

The entrance fee is $2/person. A tuk-tuk ride from the centre of Battambang costs $10-$15/person, and it’s open from 7:00 to 19:00.

Take a detour and explore the L’Ang But Meas cave, located just down the hill. Inside is a large stalactite with sparkling water dripping into a bowl below. Local legend has it that the water has mystical powers. You can approach a guide who has a torch and knows the cave by heart.

#4 Learn about Cambodia’s recent history at the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau

The Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau is deep-rooted in the violent history of the Khmer Rouge atrocities. At the mouth of the cave sits a beautifully decorated glass-walled memorial with the remains of those killed during this terrible regime. Next to it lies a reclining Buddha statue, which looks as though it’s guarding over the memorial.

It’s quite an emotional and life-affirming sight.

The caves are halfway up the Phnom Sampov Mountain, and visitors can access them via a concrete staircase, surrounded by rock formations and greenery. As it’s now a place of pilgrimage and locals gather there to sing and pray, be sure to cover your legs and elbows.

When you visit this historical site in the late afternoon, you can witness millions of bats pouring from the mouth of the cave. The experience can be slightly overwhelming — you can even feel a slight rise in temperature as the bats burst from the cave.

But don’t be scared, though — they will be on the hunt for small insects, not for you!

The bats usually wake up around 5pm, and the spectacle can last for up to 40 minutes. To get another perspective, ask your tuk-tuk to drive down the mountain and stop on the road to observe the black swarm from a distance.

To get from downtown Battambang to these caves, a tuk-tuk will charge you between $10-$12. There’s a $3 entrance fee for the Killing Caves, but if you only want to observe the bats, you don’t need to pay to get into the caves. Nevertheless, it’s still polite to buy snacks from the vendors who arrange the tables and chairs.

#5 Picnic at an 11th-century temple, the Wat Ek Phnom

Climb huge blocks of stone, navigate tiny passageways and behold a timeless beauty.

Behind a modern pagoda and a massive Buddha statue is the Wat Ek Phnom, an 11th-century temple. It’s a ruin, but it’s still impressive in its own way.  The wall is made of reddish clay, and the baray (water reservoir), the fine carvings, and the fallen bricks give the sense that you’ve discovered a forgotten temple.

The tranquil setting makes it a favourite picnic spot and pilgrimage destination during local festivals. Women trying to conceive also visit the temple, hoping to have their prayers granted.

From downtown Battambang, you can take a tuk-tuk for $5, and the entrance fee is $1. Take a sarong with you, or make sure to wear long sleeves and pants.

Tip: Ask the tuk-tuk driver to stop at local houses where they make homemade rice whiskey and rice paper.

 

Our favourite places to stay in Battambang

The city of Battambang is fairly spread out, however, you'll find the majority of accommodations are located centrally, near the Sangkae River.

The downtown area is less than 5km from the airport so taking public transportation or hopping in a taxi will be an easy & quick trip to your hotel. The bus terminal is located in the downtown area and will likely be within walking distance to your hotel, or just a short taxi ride away.

If you're hoping to visit the circus while here, it's located just a few kilometers from the airport in the opposite direction of downtown. You can still easily stay in the downtown area and grab a taxi for just a couple of bucks.

When looking for a great place to stay in Battambang, we recommend the accommodations below.

Pomme Hostel

Pomme Hostel, Bar & Restaurant is located centrally in the heart of Battambang. Just 200 m from Psar Nat, Riverside Night Market, and Battambang Museum, it's a great place to stay to see the local sights.

While breakfast is not included with your stay, it's just an extra $2 for a full English breakfast or 'build-your-own' breakfast. The restaurant offers an array of local, Asian, and international meals for lunch and dinner as well. The hotel staff, who are known to be extremely welcoming and friendly, can also arrange local tours for you.

  • Central location
  • Restaurant & Bar
  • Tour desk
  • Excellent staff

Private room start at $7 per night

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Family Batcave Homestay

Located amongst the rice fields and surrounded by beauty, this homestay is 15km from the city center of Battambang.

They offer a stunning garden, free bicycle rentals, and a relaxing terrace to soak in the sights. The owners and staff will treat you like family, great food, and a private bamboo bungalow, this is the perfect place to stay. Also, a delicious vegetarian breakfast is included with your stay.

  • Located on the outskirts of Battambang
  • Great breakfast included
  • Private bungalow
  • Free bicycle rentals

Private bungalow start at $20 per night

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Sangker Villa

If you're looking for a little more luxury without breaking the bank, then Sangker Villa is definitely the place to stay.

This centrally located villa offers a beautiful outdoor swimming pool, and each room has air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs with cable channels, a minibar, and en suite bathrooms with toiletries, they even offer hot showers!

The on-site French restaurant and bar is the perfect place to cool down after walking around town and enjoy the river views, just a 200 m walk away.

  • Centrally located in downtown Battambang
  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Restaurant & bar
  • Luxury accommodations within a travelers budget

Private rooms start at $23 per night

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Professional Traveller

Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.

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Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.

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