This north-western province of Cambodia is an enchanting locality of rice paddies, jungle and mountains. Known as ‘Cambodia’s rice bowl’ for the fertility of the land, this is a lush, postcard-perfect region.
Wat Phnom Sampov – Battambang
The urban centre is also called Battambang and is the second largest city in Cambodia. This is a city of many attractions, from a sacred hill for meditation, to temples, markets and nightlife. Battambang is also one of the provinces that makes up the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that is a globally unique ecological phenomenon. Known as a cultural centre of north-western Cambodia, Battambang also has a thriving art and food scene.
Offering a combination of urban buzz and great geographical wonders, Battambang provides visitors with the opportunity to experience a slice of ‘real’ Cambodia.
See and Do
Exploring Battambang province is an absolute must for the adventurous at heart, as there’s so much to discover.
Phnom Sampov is on the must-visit list for many visitors to Cambodia. The site is home to a beautiful pagoda and temple on top of Sam Puoy mountain. An important location in Khmer folklore, in more recent years the locality took a tragic turn, with caves here used as ‘killing caves’ by the Khmer Rouge. Nowadays there is a large memorial in one of the caves to honour the dead, as well as a golden reclining Buddha.
Buddha’s Head – Phnom Sapov, Battambang
Kamping Puoy Lake is a gorgeous man-made reservoir located in between the two mountains of Phnom Ku and Phnom Kamping Puoy. Constructed by the Khmer Rouge during a tragic era of Cambodia’s history, locals have ensured many good things have come from the reservoir since. Responsible for irrigating much of the agricultural land in the region, this is also a popular picnic spot. Also famous for the lotus flowers that grow in the water, locals sell lotus seeds as snacks, and also weave organic fabrics from the flowers, which are available to buy when you visit the area.
Kamping Puoy Lake – Battambang
Wat Ek Phnom
is an Angkor-era temple located in a picturesque spot by the Sangkae River. Now partly in ruins, this temple is famous for its huge white stone Buddha, pagoda and temple. Religious Khmers still regularly make pilgrimages to this location.
Wat Baydamram is also an interesting temple to visit, known for the many fruit bats to be found in the trees inside the temple compound. These bats are said to be under the protection of the monks who live and work there.
Wat Ek Phnom – Battambang
Other temples worth exploring in Battambang province include Baset Temple
in Ta Pun commune. It’s built on a hill offering a fabulous outlook on the surrounding area, and reflects the architecture of King Suryavarman I’s reign in the 11th century. Offering even more impressive views is Prasat Banan
, found atop a 400-metre high mountain in Koh Tey 2 commune.
The Bamboo Train – around 5km outside of Battambang city – is an original mode of transport for visitors to Cambodia to experience. The local community uses old train tracks to transport goods on bamboo palettes between villages on the outskirts of Battambang. Locals are also willing to give visitors a ride on The Bamboo Train too!
Lory - the Bamboo Train – Battambang
Also a couple of kilometres outside of Battambang city is Wat Kor Village
, a traditional Khmer village ideal for wandering around. The village is home to Wat Kor Temple and some heritage houses that are open to visitors, including Mrs Bun Roeung’s Ancient House.
Explore the city of Battambang itself on foot, bicycle or motorcycle taxi to soak up the feeling here. There’s plenty of French colonial architecture that particularly captures the imagination of visitors. Visit Battambang Provincial Museum for some insights into life across the province, with Buddha statues and pottery recovered from excavations on display. Visit the impressive White Elephant Pagoda (Wat Tahm-rai-saw), with a number of statues and peaceful grounds to explore.
Wat Damrei Sor – Battambang
The edge of Battambang province also borders Tonle Sap Lake
, where it’s pleasant to visit for a lakeside walk, or to spend the day across the lake at the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary
Culture and Arts
In the city of Battambang itself, there is plenty going on in the way of arts and culture. One of the star attractions here is Battambang Circus, which is put on twice a week by students from a NGO-run school that helps disadvantaged young people escape former problems associated with poverty. Performances begin with traditional Cambodian dance, before students wow the crowds with their amazing acrobatic talents.
Human Gallery – Battambang
There are various art galleries in Battambang city, one of which is the HUMAN Gallery
. This shows the work of the humanitarian photographer Joseba Etxebarria. It’s also a great place to buy postcards and other gifts, or relax with a Cambodian coffee or glass of wine. ROMCHEIK 5
is also worth a visit, established by a group of young artists and voted one of the Top 10 Independent Art Spaces in South East Asia. The Tep Kao Sol
gallery is a fascinating place to buy original watercolours of Cambodian artists, while upstairs in the same building is the ice painting work of a local artist. Sangker Gallery
is also a must-visit for those who want to see local artists in action. As well as works on display, it’s a spot where local artists hang out. There is also a regular programme of film screenings and other events.
Battambang’s main market, Psar Nath Market, is not so much a place to buy local handicrafts, but it is a fascinating spot to soak up a feeling of local culture. To purchase some local crafts with a social conscience, visit Rachana Handicrafts on the edge of the city. This is a sewing workshop run by an NGO that trains vulnerable women in crafts. There’s a great ion of hand-made items on sale.
Psar Nat Market – Battambang
On the outskirts of Battambang city is a monument created by artists to celebrate peace in Cambodia following the years of bloodshed. Between 2005 and 2007, weapons were collected from across Battambang and were used to create the monument, called The Naga for Peace and Development Monument
. The shape of the monument is that of a Naga – a giant snake – known from both Buddhist and Hindu beliefs.
To see a traditional local craft in action, visit the village of Pheam Ek
. The craft of this village is rice paper making, which is used for spring rolls. Wander past family businesses and see rice paste being steamed before it’s laid out to dry on bamboo frames.
Rice paper making at Pheam EK, Battambang
One of the most original artist endeavours in Battambang is the use of lotus flowers from Kamping Puoy Lake
to create high-end textiles. While disadvantaged local people have been trained in the technique, helping them learn a livelihood, the eco-friendly fabric has gained a following in the high-end fashion world.
Festivals and Events
The Khmer New Year
is one of the key events in Cambodia’s calendar of festivities, occurring in April around the harvest season for three days. Over the course of the event, various religious rituals take place in temples and pagodas. In Battambang, this is the focus of the festivities, so visit any temple or pagoda in the province to see how local people mark the occasion.
Cambodia’s primary celebrations for the Water Festival
(Bon Oum Touk) happen in Phnom Penh, but that doesn’t stop Battambang hosting some celebrations too. Taking place in November each year, this three day, centuries-old celebration marks the end of monsoon season. In Battambang, much of the festivities focus on the waterways including Sangker River, where colourful boat races take place. There’s a vibrant atmosphere on the streets around this time too.
The Kathen Festival is another festival celebrated across Cambodia, including in Battambang. Happening every October, this is the Buddhist festival of robes, where saffron robes are offered to Buddhist monks at pagodas and temples. Visit any temple in Battambang around this time which has a working population of monks and you’ll be able to spot the celebrations.
Bon Om Touk – the boat racing, Water Festival
With its thriving community of artists, it’s appropriate that Battambang has an annual art fair. Usually organised by the Sangker Gallery in June, Battambang Art Fair
creates an outdoor art fair on the street to make the works of artists accessible to all.
Food and Drink
Food and drink in Battambang ranges from traditional Khmer flavours in simple eateries, to high-end fusion options with a distinctive European influence.
Wine connoisseurs should travel a short distance out of the city to Prasat Phnom Banon Winery – Cambodia’s only vineyard. Shiraz grapes are grown here to create a complex variety of red wine, and it is possible to visit the winery for tastings. The vineyard also produces brandy.
Wine tasting – Banan winery, Battambang
The most popular street food option in Battambang is the Riverside Night Market
, where a range of different Khmer foods are served from individual stands. The Night Market
in the Psar Nath Market, and The New Night Market
opposite are other popular options for street food.
There are so many restaurants and eateries in Battambang serving amazing Khmer flavours, you can’t go far wrong by wandering around and stopping somewhere you like the look of.
A lot of the popular restaurants in Battambang serve a fusion of Khmer, Asian and European flavours. Jaan Bai, meaning ‘rice bowl’ in Khmer, is a trendy foodie hang-out in Battambang. The restaurant helps disadvantaged young people through a charity by training and employing them. La Villa serves high end Khmer, Vietnamese and European cuisine under an elegant glass rooftop. The Lonely Tree Café serves tapas style Spanish and Khmer food.
Coffee lovers should head to Kinyei
, widely hailed as serving the best coffee in the city. Kinyei baristas have previously won awards in the Cambodian National Barista Championships and regularly represent Cambodia in international competitions. Serving original coffees such as the Street Latte and the Cambodian Cappuccino, this is a place to sample unique coffees.
Fans of art and coffee should pay a visit to Choco l’art Café
– a gallery and café run by a local artist. It’s particularly good for coffee and a French inspired breakfast.