From the local norry to Banan temple, Battambang is a city full of contrasting details. However, if you want to have a marvelous experience, you need to combine your research with local decisions. Don’t plan your trip in full, but don’t let it completely unplanned either. The best way to make sure you will cover all the important aspects of the region is to focus on the main attractions and adapt any other additional plan to this set of landmarks.
Attractions in Battambang focus on a complex set of sights resulting from the impact of traditional religion (mainly Theravada Buddhism), specific Khmer customs, fishing traditions around Tonlé Sap, French colonialism, and, to a certain degree, a recent form of commercialism.
The Meaning of Silence
Some of the temples in and near Battambang deserve special attention, because of an overtly specific setting, or due to the fact that they are related to important figures or events. Either way, silence governs these establishments. Here are the top three:
- Phnom Sampeau – A superb pagoda on the top of a hill accompanied by the so-called Killing Caves that will make you think twice about the history of this country.
- Phnom Banan – A gorgeous antique temple near Battambang, with a unique architecture.
- Wat Ek Phnom – An old temple, collapsed under the weight of history, approximately ten kilometers outside the city.
The Meaning of Water
Geographically, Battambang is located at about half the distance between the Gulf of Thailand and Tonlé Sap. If you reach the city, you need to spend some time visiting the spectacular sights near the lake that made Cambodians fishermen.
- Shoot photos of this quiet, yet unpredictable 12000-sq.km. lake. Admire the mangrove forests with over 100 different species of birds.
- Visit the Floating Village at Tonlé Sap. Extra charges may apply, but it will definitely worth the bucks.
- Learn about local fishing techniques to better understand the Khmer way of life and its specific cuisine.
The Meaning of Time
In Battambang history rules, as if the past were more important than the present. For a foreign tourist, this translates into a set of rather limited activities (as opposed to the more unconcealed Siem Reap or to the metropolitan area of Phnom Penh). So what to do to get in the rhythm of the city? Below are a few suggestions:
- Take a trip with a norry. It’s safe (guarded by local police), fun, exotic and… faster than you’d expect.
- See a representation of the Battambang Circus. Circuses in Eastern Asia are very different than the ones in Europe or North America. A great attraction for kids.
- Visit Sammaki Art Space, one of the few professional art studios in the city.
- Spend an afternoon at the Battambang Museum. This is probably the most effective way to gain a fast insight on the history of Cambodia.
- Visit the area near the border with Thailand (e.g. Pailin) to experience a real feel of the Khmer traditional way of life.
- Spend time in cafés carrying an old and powerful air of French colonialism.
- Leave Battambang by river. Even if this may seem strange at a first glance, the landscapes and waterscapes you’ll witness for the next hours will make you change your mind.