A Budget Traveler's Guide to Battambang

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A Budget Traveler’s Guide to Battambang

With budget guesthouses, eateries and bars that will not leave your wallet empty, Battambang, where development is at a rapid pace, is a backpacker’s paradise. For more information, you can click: Indochina travel Cambodia

City of tranquility

Battambang – a beautiful city in Cambodia

Battambang – a beautiful city in Cambodia-source: internet

As on first appearance, there is seemingly nothing to do in this sleepy town, when it comes to laid-back Battambang, the adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” should come into play.

In spite of being the second largest city in Cambodia (after Phnom Penh), Battambang, whose quiet streets, with the odd car or motorbike trundling down them, sit in stark contrast to the mayhem of the capital, is compact. Here, the life pace sits many notches down the scale and calamity is replaced by a sense of calm. However, don’t let the city’s lapse into dilapidation or the peace put you off. All of this forms part of the unique charm of Battambang, and is what will quickly make you fall in love with it.

While this city is welcoming an increasing number of travelers, it remains relatively off the path of those who are heading to Siem Reap’s temples or for the islands and beach in the south. This gives Battambang a rough-around-the-edges, authentic feel, offering a closer glimpse into the urban life of Cambodia away from the cosmopolitan centers of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. You can read more: Cambodia travel tours

Artistic history


Lotus-bar-&-gallery-Battambang- source: internet

Scratch beneath the surface and Battambang harbors a wealth of wonders. Battambang, which was once the creative capital of this country, was home to S-21 survivors, 1960s singer Ros Sereysothea and artist Vann Nath. While most artists were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime, Battambang now once again houses a bubbling modern art scene. Dotting the streets are several independent galleries, which can be visited for free: Romcheik5, Make Maek, Studio Art Battambang, etc.

Architectural wonders

Battambang statue

Battambang statue- source: internet

Battambang itself and its clutter of crumbling buildings, where paint peels in gashes from the walls and webs of mould creep up their sides, might seem a bit drab at the first sight, but looking a little closer, you can easily find the Cambodia’s biggest existing collection of colonial buildings, boasting stunning French architecture dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.

Some of these great buildings – mainly those along the waterfront, such as the Exhibition Hall and Post Office – have been restored to their former glory and, due to the compact size of Battambang, are able to be explored by bike or on foot. Travelers can have one of several tour companies take them around these sites. Alternatively, if you want to cut down on cost, it is strongly advised to go to the Khmer Architecture Tours website and head out after downloading a map of the best spots.

Exploring rural Cambodia

Biking tour in Battambang

Biking tour in Battambang- source: internet

The easy access to stunning countryside can be other beauty of Battambang. This city, which is coined ‘Cambodia’s Rice Bowl’, is surrounded by sprawling paddies coming to life in monsoon season, when the emerald green contrasts against the angry grey skies, ancient religious sites and peaceful villages. The region is also mainly flat, making riding a bike such a great way to explore the rural hidden gems. You can take part in half and full-day tours run by Soksabike to take into the heart of the landscape and pay a visit to local villages along the way. If it is something out of the budget, you will not be hard pushed to find a guesthouse or travel shop renting bikes, with the price starting from $1 a day, meaning that you can hit the winding tracks on your own.

Phnom Sampeou, which is about 12km (7.4 mi.) southwest of this city, should be included in noteworthy trips into the countryside. This great hilltop pagoda complex offers unapproachable views across the countryside and distant rolling hills – the perfect place for sunset. However, with the hill home to the killing caves, where the Khmer Rouge dumped the dead, horror does not sit far away. Now, it is a shrine that tourists can come to visit. Alternatively, they can skip the gorgeous sunset views and head to the base, where at dusk there are millions of bats streaming out of the caves dotting Phnom Sampeou and streaming into the countryside for the night. What a marvelous spectacle!

The bamboo train: A different means of public transport

Bamboo train experience in Battambang

Bamboo train experience in Battambang- source: internet

Another must activity is experiencing the bamboo train. With the price of $10 for one seat and $5 per person for two seats or more, this experience will not break the bank. This bamboo train, also called nori, is made up of a three-meter long wooden frame, covered with bamboo slats with an engine that can take it up to the speeds of 50 km/h (31 mi/h).

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