Things To Do In Battambang, Cambodia

Dusty and quiet, Battambang is an unassuming town.  It is the 2nd largest town in Cambodia but you would never know it by driving around. At first glance it appears to be shut down, a sleep town during the day. The roads and markets bring about a mild level of curiosity but it is behind the scenes of the town where you really find the charm and the explanation of why we stayed a week.

We almost skipped over Battambang.  We had planned only a month in Cambodia and between the incredible Angkor Wat and my desire to sit on a beach for a bit, Battambang was the obvious spot to cut out.  In the end, after hearing about the nori rides, we decided to go and break up the trip to Phnom Penh and we are so glad that we did.

First and foremost, our week in Battambang was wonderful in large part because of our tuk tuk driver, Happy.  Having someone who knows all the sites and is able to explain the history and unique aspects to a town can be the difference between loving and leaving.  Happy was amazing, cheap, on time, and more of a tour guide and at no added expense.  Did I mention we loved him??

Aside from driving us from the bus to our hotel and around for meals and shopping, we also did a couple of tours and things around town that we enjoyed greatly.  I highly recommend you find him when you get to town.

Bamboo Train  The train ride is the main reason we came to Battambang.  Everyone we talked to said it was a real highlight so it was no surprise that the kids loved the trip.  30 mins to the turn around, a quick stroll around the countryside taking in a tour and chatting with some local vendors and a 30-minute trip back was the perfect amount of time.

Admittedly, I was scared to death when we first sat on that bamboo platform, but watching the kids joy and feeling the breeze on my face quickly erased all doubts. This is an absolute must see!  The cost of the train ride was roughly $15 for all five of us, and our driver who came on tour as well.  I have heard the prices vary widely so I would suggest having a driver with you to be sure the prices are fair.

Brick factory  When we arrived at the bamboo railroad halfway point, hive shaped buildings seems to rise out of nowhere.  Brick factories are something that may not seem very interesting but it was truly fascinating.  Happy described how they make the bricks, showed us the huge ovens, introduced us to the brick makers, and let the kids try it out for themselves.  There was no charge and  the few workers we did encounter were mesmerized by our interest and excitement.

Old temple in the forefront where the torture occurred and newly rebuilt temple in the back

Killing fields/temples   Being a population center in Cambodia, Battambang went through a massive cleansing during the Khmer rouge raids in 1975-76, when all the cities were emptied out.  There are killing caves outside the city where people were bludgeoned and thrown in, and a beautiful temple closer to the town where monks and professionals were tortured and killed.  There you will find heartbreaking bas beliefs revealing the struggles that everyday Cambodians endured during that time.  These are not the happiest places to visit, but important all the same.

Fish paste factory/Bamboo rice  These 2 forms of local commerce are worthy of an hour or so to explore.  No one in either area was particularly quick to show us around, this is more an area then a factory, but with our guide he was able to show us around, explain how it was done, and answer all of our questions. The bamboo rice is such a nice sweet treat while the fish paste area maintained an odor in our nostrils for at least an hour.  Both these areas offer up a glimpse into rural Cambodia life, they are traditional yet slightly unhygienic, but picturesque all the same.

As an added tip, you can stop off briefly at the old Pepsi factory which shut down in the 70's.  Inside the machines, and bottles have sat unused for decades!

Children's Circus  The Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO helps local families have an opportunity to access culture by exposing them to various artistic activities.  They offer locals music, drawing, painting, drama, and circus classes and have even sponsored several children to go on and pursue more training outside of Cambodia, an incredible opportunity.  They also do tri-weekly performances open to the public.

We weren't sure what to expect when we arrived (I honestly thought it may be just us there) and were incredibly surprised by what we found.  This was a real circus production of very talented kids and adults.  It is apparently very well know because the house was packed, and the performance announcers spoke in English.  We enjoyed a tour of the art the children produce and had a beer in the small bar on the property before entering the main tent.  It was something we wanted to check out but we had no idea how wonderful it would really be. It was a perfect evening! Total cost was under $20 for me and 3 children.

Crocodile farm   Everywhere you go in Cambodia you will see signs from people selling various crocodile products, from purses to meat.  While in Battambang we found one of the local places raising the crocodiles for these delicacies. The family running the farm were so sweet and even spoke some English. They raise the crocs for sale to the Chinese when they get larger but it is the juveniles she told us that bring more money for clothing, purses, and belts.  Their skin is smoother and without scratches or other imperfections at that age. They have over 500 crocodiles at the farm and she even let us feed some of them, which the kids adored.  Who knew they ate mangos?

The highlight was going back to their humble home and sharing a drink, conversation, and having the chance to hold a newborn crocodile.  They make the most adorable little sounds but beware, even the 2 day old baby had sharp teeth!  Cost for an hour of fun was $2 for all of us.  I gave her more and thanked her.

The interesting thing in Cambodia is that even with all the poverty, the locals are not out to scam you!  We never felt taken advantage of and were greeted with smiles and friendliness everywhere we went!  It is a wonderful country for families to visit!

As you can see this town is packed with interesting and different things to do, including cooking classes and numerous tours.  I would give it at least 3 days as the drive to Siem Reap is 3 hours and to Phnom Penh 6 hours.  It makes a wonderful break in the long travel time between the 2 popular towns. There are also some wonderful restaurants that are doing amazing work with the youth of the area to improve their lives.  Gecko cafe was our favorite!

Most amazing mint lemon ice at the Gecko cafe
It may take a couple days to settle into this town as it gives off a different impression the longer you stay.  Not everyone will have a week there but we are so happy that we stayed that long and could delve a bit deeper into the countryside.

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  1. We really enjoyed Battambang too, although like you, it's first impression did tend to send you wondering when the next bus out of town was! Also wholly agree with your conclusion that "(Cambodia) ... even with all the poverty, the locals are not out to scam you! We never felt taken advantage of and were greeted with smiles and friendliness everywhere we went! It is a wonderful country for families to visit!" Hopefully tourism will not jade them.

  2. Hello!! My friend and I are planning to go in Battambang in March. Where did you stay there? May I know the contact information of your tuk-tuk driver Happy??

    1. Wonderful, you will love it! We sure did. Here is the link to my hotel overview for Cambodia

      Happy was wonderful, here is his number, when we were there at least. At the bus station if you ask around for him you'll find him easily as well. 092139307