Battambang is a city located about 164 km from Siem Reap. It’s the second most populous city in Cambodia and is quite popular among tourists. The popularity of the city seems to come more from the vibe of it, rather than the things to do in Battambang (there isn’t a lot). The authentic countryside, the huge variety in food and the riverside setting all make up for it. At first, we weren’t quite sure whether we should go to Battambang or not. We did, and we didn’t regret it for one second.
It’s super simple to get from Siem Reap to Battambang with bus. In Siem Reap there’s several bus companies going to Battambang. We went with Mekong Express and payed 6 dollars per person. The only downside with the bus was that there were no seat belts. The journey took about 4.5 hours, which is a bit long given the distance. The not-so-good conditions of the roads and the traffic were the reasons for this.
Anyways, we loved our short visit to Battambang and we have now put together this list of things to do in Battambang. There’s not a lot of things to do in Battambang, but there are a few that you shouldn’t miss. Even if you decide not to do any of these things or just a few, Battambang is worth a visit. It’s a lovely city to just walk around in and enjoy the people and surroundings. Just keep in mind that it gets very dark after sunset, due to the lack of street lightning.
1. Explore the Authentic Part of Battambang
Battambang offers so much more than what you can find in the city center. The majority of the locals lives along the riverside and on the countryside. To get an insight in the life of the locals, exploring this part of Battambang is definitely worth the time. Along the riverside you’ll meet locals living and working there. Unlike the locals in the city, who are used to foreigners, the locals outside the city center are very curious and keen to greet you.
While exploring the countryside you’ll see local farmers farming their land and walking with their cows. You will see lots of cows. You’ll see cows playing, cows pooping, cows eating and cows just laying around. There’s more than cows to discover though. There’s children playing, dogs running around, locals vendors selling fruit and food and local homes made out of everything from metal sheets, to cement, to bamboo. If you’re lucky, you might pass a wedding celebration.
2. Go With the Bamboo Train
So, Battambang has for a long time been famous for its bamboo train. This was the one thing to do in Battambang. It used to be a 1-2 hours long ride through jungle and rice fields with a carriage made out of bamboo. Sometimes along the way, you had to stop and get off so that your driver could lift the carriage off the trails for an oncoming carriage to pass.
Unfortunately, they took this railway away because they’re building “proper” railways. Now a days there’s a new “bamboo train”. This consists of carriages made out of metal, driving in a round circle in a commercial park. The location is not even close to the old one. It’ll cost you 5 dollars per person, and you’ll probably have to wait for at least 1 hour.
3. Visit Banan Temple
This might not be one of the most exciting things to do in Battambang. If you ask us, it’s not really worth going all the way just for this temple. But, if you’re on a tour or you’ve visited the bamboo train (which is close by), it’s well worth a visit.
The Banan temple is located right next to the bamboo train, up on a mountain. It’s a small hike consisting of 335 steps up to the top. The Temple consists of 5 rather small “towers”. It’s possible to enter some of them. You can tell that they’re old and that they haven’t been reconstructed like, for example, Angkor Wat. They’re still beautiful though. The top also offers a pretty good view of the many fields and villages surrounding the mountain.
4. Visit the Killing Cave
Cambodia has a rough history. Less than 45 years ago, the country experienced a genocide. This civil war went on from 1975 and 1979. During these years, the Khmer Rouge are said to have killed up to two million people. In Cambodia today, they are still trying to process this holocaust. One way they’re doing this is by informing about it. There are several spots in Cambodia where it’s possible to see parts of the country’s history with your own eyes. One of these spots is located in Battambang.
On your way to the Killing Cave, you’ll pass a temple on the top of the mountain. This place is not only popular among human beings, but among monkeys. When we visited several of the female monkeys had recently had a baby.
The Killing Cave in Battambang was used for throwing people in, from a hole on the top in order to kill them. Then the bodies were kept in the bottom of the cave. Today the Killing Cave is one of the most popular things to do in Battambang. It’s possible to visit the cave and see where people got thrown in. They also have a collection of skulls and bones from the skeletons that were found in the cave.
The price for the killing cave, the Temple on top of the mountain and the bat cave (see number 5) is 2 dollars.
5. Visit the Bat Cave
In the same mountain as the killing cave, but on the other side of it, there’s a bat cave. Millions of bats are living in this cave. And during sunset, they all wants to fly out of the cave to find some food. It’s a surreal experience to see millions of bats flying out of their cave. They’re leaving the cave in a perfect line, forming beautiful patterns as they fly far into the distance.
After leaving their cave, they fly about 50 km before they come back to the cave and stay there until the next sunset. If you go, make sure not to stand too close, or wear clothes you’re not very fond of, as they tend to do their needs on their way. Together with the Killing Cave, this is one of the most popular things to do in Battambang.
The price for the bat cave, the Temple on top of the mountain and the killing cave (see number 4) is 2 dollars.
6. Go With a Bike Tour
You can do all of the above in one day with a bike tour. There are several companies that offers tours on bicycles. Usually they all offer several, different kinds of tours. The price usually goes from 13 to 50 dollars per person, depending on which company and which tour you choose.
Going by bicycle is a fun, healthy and environmental-friendly way to explore the city. Just keep in mind that it gets warm during the day, so bring lots of water and maybe a change of clothes or two.
7. Go With a Tuk Tuk Tour
If you’re not up for biking (like us) you can instead go to all these places in half a day with a tuk tuk. Either you can find a tuk tuk driver with lots of reviews on TripAdvisor and pay a little extra, or you can just go and grab one out in the street. There are lots of tuk tuk drivers everywhere in the city center, so you won’t have any issues finding a driver.
They of course want to make money, so they will make you pay the highest price you’re willing to accept. Some also try to tell you that it’s more expensive when you’re more than two people – it shouldn’t be. We were four people and we payed 15 dollars in total for going along the riverside to the bamboo train, to the Banan temple, to the killing cave and the bat cave and back.
8. Go to the Circus
In Siem Reap, circuses are a big deal. It’s animal free circuses, only humans doing lots of cool tricks and acrobatics. In Battambang they have a circus school called Phare Ponleu Selpak. This school is offering free education to students interested in learning arts, circus, music, dance and other things. The main purpose is to increase their students future possibilities and hence improve human development and social change. This school has shows almost every night, where students are performing and showing everything they’ve learned. The schedule is found on their website.
The price is 14 dollars per adult and 7 per child. The money goes to funding the free education. The show is incredible and the students are really, really good. We didn’t regret spending that money for one second. You don’t have to book your tickets in advance, you can buy them on spot. Just be there in time and get a good seat.
9. Take a Cooking Class
As many of you know, we love food. And we love being able to cook delicious food. Therefore, we try to do some cooking classes every now and then. In Battambang there’s a couple of restaurants that has gotten really good reviews for their cooking classes, so gave it a go.
The two most popular and known restaurants that holds cooking classes (according to Tripadvisor) are Coconut Lily and Nary Kitchen. Both of them offers a 3-hour long cooking class, including a visit to the local market, a recipe book and cooking four dishes that you also get to eat. The price is 10 dollars for both of them.
We chose Coconut Lily, partly due to amazing reputation and partly because the owner and instructor (Lily) seemed very friendly. We were not disappointed. Lily was very easy going, easy to understand and funny. The most important of it all, the food turned out great!
10. Visit markets
There’s two day markets and one night market in Battambang. We visited all of them and (it might be because we got spoiled by the markets in Thailand filled with food stalls, I’m not sure) we weren’t very impressed. The day markets mostly offered groceries (vegetables, fruit and raw meat and fish) and clothes and the night market consisted of a few small restaurants and food stalls.
The day markets are called Phsar Nath (or Central Market) and Boeung Chhouk market and are located in the city center, 600 meters away from each other. The night market is located opposite the Post Office by the river. Instead of eating on any of the food stalls in the markets, we ate at some amazing, local restaurants.
11. Eat delicious food
There are some really nice local restaurants in Battambang. You can also find great, more western type of restaurants. As far as we know, there’s also at least two NGO-restaurant (HOC-Café and Jaan Bai). We used Tripdvisor and Happy Cow to find places to eat. Just a little side note, Happy Cow is amazing if you’re vegetarian or vegan, or just have a feel for some better food ;), and are looking for places to eat (and who isn’t?).
One of our favorite places was a dumpling and noodle restaurant called Lan Chov Khroko Miteanh. This place offers fried noodles, noodle soups and dumplings (fried and boiled). Noodles and dumplings are possible to get vegetarian. We went twice and both times there were more or less only locals eating there. For us, this is a really good sign. They close at 9pm and seem to open around 7am.
The other place we loved is an all-vegetarian restaurant called Ahaa Boer Vegetarian Food. They’re offering soups, dumplings (ish, they’re called Baozi in Chinese), bread and (delicious) home made soy milk. Some of the soups are served with a really delicious beef-imitation. We ate here three times out of three days. . We were the only foreigners every time. Pajam even woke up earlier than necessary to have time to eat here before we left our last day. Usually he doesn’t even eat breakfast. This is a breakfast/lunch restaurant. They open at 6.30am and close at 2pm.