***Anecdotal intro, so you can skip this broth if you just want the meat of the article!
Krissy and I were hesitant about going to Battambang, as there is not a whole lot of information about the city online, and our time in Cambodia was way shorter than we would have liked.
We waited outside our hostel in Phnom Penh for the van to take us to the bus station, and then off to Battambang. When we jumped in the van we were relieved to see so many other westerners, who we thought, were of course also heading off to Battambang.
“Where you guys headed?” I casually threw out in the van.
Ok, now I was starting to feel a little nervous.
No big deal, I thought. Surely when we get on the bus there will be some other
adventurous travelers heading off on the apparently road less traveled…
But as we boarded the rickety bus that looked as if it might fall apart at any moment, I realized I could not have been further than the truth–
We were the only two westerners on a bus packed full of Cambodians.
To me, Battambang feels like an authentic glimpse into the daily life Cambodia, free from the heavy haggling, and the smoke and mirrors of the tourism industry.
Battambang is just three hours south of Siem Reap and is the capital city of the same province, which is known for being the highest producer of rice in Cambodia.
Truth be told there’s not much to do in Battambang. The city feels more like an overgrown rural village than the capital of a province, but it is a wonderful place to get away from the madness of Phnom Penh, and the tourist gleam of Siem Reap.
So before I answer the title question, is it worth it to go to Battambang? Let’s talk about what you can do there…
- Cycle through the Cambodian Countryside
Cycling through the beautiful rural expanse of Cambodia is a great way to push the Phnom Penh smog out of your lungs, and see new parts of Cambodia in a healthy and fun way.
This is one of my favorite things we did in Cambodia, and my number 1 recommendation for Battambang.
I recommend SoksaBike for renting bikes. They have sturdy mountain bikes available for $5 a day, and although we could have rented bikes from our hotel for $1 a day, the potholed dirt roads of the countryside made me glad we paid the extra cash for good bikes.
Bike Rental Price: $5
Tour Price: They have many different tours. Check the prices on their website here
SoksaBike also has bike tours take you to a few different attractions in the countryside (temples, a giant Buddha), and take you to meet some local farmers who show you what they do, and then make you lunch.
We missed the tour though, forged our own path through the rural expanse, and could not have been happier.
However you want to do it, cycling through Battambang is my number #1 recommendation for this city. It’s an incredible way to explore the raw Cambodian rural landscape.
But what should you do after a hot sweaty bike ride?
Krissy and I rode ten miles into the countryside in the Cambodian sunshine, and afterwards… well to be completely honest, we didn’t want to do too much more for the rest of the day.
Luckily there is an awesome bar in Battambang where you can…
2. Watch Friends All Day Long
Buffalo Alley Bar in Battambang is one of a kind.
The food there is fresh and tasty, they have cold Angkor beer on draft for .50 cents, the people that run it are super nice, and there is a private upstairs room upstairs that shows episodes of Friends all day long, the perfect spot to veg out after a long bike ride.
Take a load off, have a beer, and enjoy some laughs at the expense of Joey and Chandler.
Friends Room Cost: Free with drink purchases
3. Take a Cooking Class
Cost: Around $10
Battambang is a slow paced place where you can relax. However, given my atrocious culinary skills, the kitchen is far from a place of relaxation for me. For this reason, I never did take a cooking class in Battambang, but don’t let my reservations hold you back!
Cambodian cuisine is phenomenal, and I wish I could cook the food I enjoyed there. Battambang is a city full of cooking schools. Give one of them a go, learn a thing or two, and sample some tasty dishes.
The two highest rated cooking schools in Battambang are Nary’s kitchen (see youtube link below) and The Smokin’ Pot. I had the chicken soup at the Smokin’ Pot restaurant, and must say it was delicious!
4. The Killing Caves
Just 11 km outside Battambang is a cave where Pol Pot had many Cambodians from around the area killed. There are skulls and other evidence of the savagery that happened here.
I know about Cambodia’s tragic history, and hate going to these kind of attractions, but I don’t judge ill of anybody who would want to.
Phnom Penh is a city with many tragic historical attractions like this. If you haven’t read my article 7 Awesome Things to do in Phnom Penh that won’t Dampen your Day, then check it out!
5. The Bamboo Train
The Bamboo train is an antique cart with a small motor that fly’s down a train track in the countryside. Apparently the bamboo train can get going at a decent speed, so if you’re a bit of a daredevil, then this might be something to try (see youtube link above!).
Be warned though, at the end of the track are some souvenir shops, and the haggle game is strong.
The Bamboo train isn’t really my cup of tea, but if you have kids they will probably think it’s the shit. Give the Battambang bamboo train a shot!
6. The Battambang Night Market
It wouldn’t be a Southeast Asian city without a night market!
Although typically I try to stay away from the night markets (having lived in Southeast Asia for over a year you tend to get really burnt out on them), my girlfriend usually pulls me into to look at something “cute,” and in Battambang, I’m sorta glad she did!
The Battambang night market has some great food options, a really nice fountain in the middle, and it’s located right next to the river, which looks beautiful in the glow of the night lights. It’s not big by any means, but it’s a good way to walk off a big dinner!
Conclusion: So, is it worth is to go to Battambang?
In my not so humble opinion, yes!
I think visiting Battambang is a great way to see a side of Cambodia that is completely different than Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville or any other traveled place in the country.
If you are looking for crazy nights out, huge tourism sites, beaches, or raging hostel groups then this is not the place.
But if you want a window into everyday Cambodian life, the countryside, a nice city to relax in, or a place to take the kids, then going to Battambang is definitely worth it.
Hey, by the way…Have you ever been to Battambang?
Do you have anything to add to the list? Questions, comments, concerns? Want to know what color underwear I was wearing when I wrote this?
Well I want to hear from you! So feel free to comment below. Oh…and my briefs were green and red.
Thanks for reading, and happy travels