Check out Battambang; Bamboo Trains & Bat Caves
The enchanting town of Battambang is just a few hours by bus from Siem Reap. Fewer travelers end up in Battambang but if you do find yourself in this beautiful town, you’ll soon discover the many hidden gems it has to offer. Whether you’re enjoying some of the best coffee in Cambodia at Kinyei Expresso Bar, riding the tracks on a make-shift train made of bamboo or watching the millions of bats fly out the Phnom Samphou Bat Cave.
Here is a list of a few more things to check out!
- Phare Ponleu Selpak: Battambang’s permanent circus school, Phare Ponleu Selpak offers training in circus skills, art and music to local children and students. Performances (with art exhibition and welcome drink before the show) take place three or four times a week, showcasing the excedingly talented performers’ skills. Many students go on to perform internationally when they leave. Visit www.phareps.org/ for up to date show times.
- Phnom Samphou and The Bat Cave: About 11km outside of Battambang town centre is a mountain, home to the Killing Cave of Phnom Samphou, and the Bat Cave. An easy cycle, or about 10 minutes by moto, the Killing Cave is about two thirds of the way up the mountain, and still houses the remains of those killed there during the Khmer Rouge genocide. The Bat Cave offers an amazing spectacle at around 5pm each day – thousands and thousands of bats leave the cave as dusk falls, a steady stream flying out for around 45minutes. It is possible to combine a visit here with a visit to Banan Temple, also situated out in the countryside; arrange with a moto driver to take you to both, or hire a motorbike (Royal Hotel and Gecko Cafe rent them for approx $7 a day) and visit them yourself.
- Traditional Khmer House (Homestays also possible)– The village of Wat Kor, in Wat Kor Commune, Battambang is home to several traditional Khmer houses, built in the early 20th Century. Located south of Battambang town along the river, the houses are a little hard to find so it can be easier to get here by Tuk Tuk if you don’t have a local guide. The only English speaking owner in the village is called Yee Sarith, who will explain the history of his home, which was built in 1906 and finished in 1907. Some traditional houses in Wat Kor also offer homestays, which can be arranged with them directly. Donations are asked for from visitors.
- Bamboo Train: Battambang’s most touristy tourist attraction, the Bamboo Train is an old fashioned railway track and bamboo platform, which takes you on a 20minute ride to a small village. Worth a trip if you go in a group (it costs about $5 each for a group, $10 if you go alone), the easiest way to get here is by Tuk Tuk. Beware the children in the village who will act as a guide un-asked, they will try demanding dollars from you when you leave!
- Crocodile Farm: located a few kilometers to the north of Battambang, along the river’s west bank, the Crocodile Farm is home to hundreds of crocodiles. Visit early in the morning to catch them at their livliest, during feeding time. If you want to, you can also hold crocodiles that are only a month or so old. Costs $1 if you cycle and $2 if you visit by Tuk Tuk.
- Swimming: If the heat gets too much, head past the night market to Victory Club, a large outdoor pool with sun loungers and massages. Popular with expats as well as locals, it is acceptable to wear western-style swimwear, but be prepared to receive a few curious glances if a group of locals turn up. There’s also a gym here if you’re feeling actice. $2 to use the pool, $1 for the gym.
- Food and Drink: Battambang has one of the most thriving coffee shop cultures you’ll come across in Asia. Many restaurants and coffee shops are also either part of an NGO or a social enterprise, providing training and qualifications for those that work there. The best of the best are:
- Cycling: whether you want to meander through the countryside on your own, or join one of the social enterprise-run bike tours on offer, Battambang is best seen by bicycle. Several hotels rent bicycles for a dollar or two a day, or you can hire slightly more rugged mountain bikes from Kinyei coffee shop on Street 1 1/2 (one road up from the river, just south of the market) for $1.50 a day. If you want to learn more about the country side, both Soksabike and the newly launched Butterfly Tours offer guided bike rides, where you will get the opportunity to learn how locals live, sample locally produced food and drink, and visit historic sites such as the Killing Field and memorial Stupa. Both companies employ local students as guides, all whom speak exceptional English and are great company for a day out. Soksabike are based at Kinyei and Butterly Tours have posters in most coffee shops in the town centre- ask at Coconut Water for details.
For more information, feel free to contact us!