A city off the beaten path that doesn’t attract many tourists – sounds pretty lame, hey? Don’t be fooled! Battambang in Cambodia has plenty of things to do that will teach you a lot about this captivating country.
Battambang isn’t part of the typical tourist route in Cambodia. You have to take a slight detour because of the few roads that lead there. From Phnom Penh, the bus takes around 6 hours and from Siem Reap it’s a 3.5 hour drive on the bus. If like me, you have plenty of time in Cambodia, take this detour and discover the real Cambodia in Battambang! Whilst there aren’t tons of things to do there, the few things that you can do are unique to the area!
Ride the Bamboo Train
On the outskirts of the city, the French colonialists built train tracks. Whilst there are no trains running anymore, you can take a tiny bamboo train for a ride along the tracks. We paid $5 each and got onto a bamboo pallet on top of 2 axels.
Once sat down, the fun began! The ‘train’ goes pretty damn fast and it’s so much fun as you can see in the video I took below!
The scenery along the way is beautiful, you get to see the countryside with it’s fields and the track runs through stunning nature!
Since it’s a single track, the rule for any trains going the other way is that the one with the heaviest cargo can stay and the other has to get off to let it pass. Since the train only consists of 3 parts, the whole dismantling process is super quick and only takes 5 minutes max!
After 10 minutes, the train makes a stop at a small village for a while before taking you back. I read on a lot of blogs about people being molested and forced to buy stuff there before they were taken back but thankfully that didn’t happen to us and our driver was lovely!
Learn more about Cambodia’s past at Phnom Sampeau
Phnom Sampeau is a hill on the outskirts of Battambang that is famous for a very cruel part of Cambodia’s recent history. It is home to the Killing Caves were the Khmer Rouge killed thousands of people.
Walking down the path to the cave really gives you the chills. There is a small temple in the cave now where people come to pray for those they’ve lost here. Experiencing the deep cave almost made me sick since the killing methods of the Khmer Rouge were incredibly cruel. Something you will be reminded of in a lot of places in Cambodia.
Further up the hill is a beautiful Bhuddist temple that provides a great view of the nearby countryside.
The temple area is huge and the temples are fairly new, yet they are one of the most impressive I’ve seen in Southeast Asia. Mainly because of the area and the history of the hill it’s located on.
In the evening light, the golden roofs are almost glowing!
Getting to the top of the hill can either be done by foot which gets very exhausting! Or, like us, you can get a motorbike. We each got on the back of a motorbike with a Cambodian guy for a few dollars and it was insane!
The hill is insanely steep and going downhill I was basically sitting on the back, holding on for my life and praying to make it down alive! It was a ton of fun though and I’ve never laughed so much in my life!
See the Bat Cave
Apart from the Bamboo Train, the most well known attraction of Battambang is the Bat Cave at the bottom of Phnom Sampeau! It’s best to make your way there around 5:30 pm to secure a good spot!
At 6 pm sharp you will start to see thousands of bats flying out in a stream to get to the nearby fields for their dinner. Whilst that might not sound all that interesting, seeing it live is a mesmerizing experience you will never forget!
The whole spectacle goes on for approximately half an hour and as you make your way back to the city, you’ll still see the bats flying across the fields.
Explore Rural Cambodia
We had hired a tuk tuk driver for a full day, starting with a countryside tour early in the morning. He first took us to Wat Ek Phnom, a complex that holds a modern pagoda (pictured below) and ruins of an ancient hinduist temple from the Angkor Area.
The modern temple is very colourful with hand paintings all over the ceiling and beautiful statues are found in every corner!
Our driver also stopped when we were passing through a small village were women were making fresh rice paper. I’d seen the process before in Vietnam, but in this village, every house seemed to be making rice paper!
One women kindly invited us in and showed us how she made the rice paper and we had some delicious summer rolls there!
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