Battambang – Things to do Around the City
First things first, our journey from Sihanoukville to Battambang didn’t go the smoothest, in fact it was almost an absolute nightmare! We got a sleeper coach from Sihanoukville, which was fine. All fine, until we ended up 116km past Battambang at the Cambodian/Thai border in Poipet. Well, that certainly wasn’t the plan, thanks to the friendly and helpful bus driver who decided not to tell anyone when we were at Battambang.
It wasn’t the end of the world, but all the hugely unhelpful bus company workers were enough to annoy anyone, never mind being tired and confused as to why we were in Poipet and not Battambang. Like I mentioned, the bus driver was supposed to shout when we were at Battambang, but he definitely did not, as there were about 8 of us in the same situation. Anyway, we ended up being helped out by a policeman and directed to a free bus to the bus station, where we jumped on a $10 – 2.5 hour coach to Battambang.
After the earlier fiasco, an extra $10 down and 2 and a half hours later, we had finally arrived in Battambang.
Where to Stay in Battambang
There’s not a great deal of choice when deciding where to sleep when you have a low budget. There’s a cheap place with dorm rooms called Tomato Guest House and just round the corner from that, there is a hotel with double and twin rooms, called Chhaya Hotel. Both of them are fairly basic, no thrills accommodation, but both easy on the wallet. Chhaya had a few more ‘luxuries’, such as a TV and a private bathroom.
Things to do Around Battambang
In the actual city of Battambang, there isn’t a huge amount to do or see. The majority of the attractions are a short drive from the city.
First thing I would recommend you do is…
Hire a Tuk Tuk Driver
Hiring a tuk tuk driver to take us to all the sights around Battambang was the best thing we could of done here, he was a really nice guy and a great guide as well.
When you arrive in Battambang and step off your coach, as in most places in South East Asia you will more than likely be mithered by tuk tuk drivers, but on this occasion, as we were pulling into the bus station there was one guy who literally ran beside the coach to get our attention, for that effort alone he deserved our business while were in Battambang.
The driver was called Small – a really nice guy – he ended up taking us everywhere we wanted go in the 2 days we were in Battambang.
If you are going to hire a tuk tuk driver for your time here, this may sound obvious, but make sure you don’t let them overcharge you.
On our first day in Battambang, Small took us to the Bamboo Railway. The railway was actually quite enjoyable, not what I expected. It was something a bit different, you travel on an open, flat bamboo cart up and down the windy, bumpy railway line, which is something I’ve definitely never experienced before!
Don’t get me wrong it’s not worth a trip to Battambang for alone, but it’s well worth doing while you’re there. I’d recommend taking a ride on the railway at around 4pm, so you get great views of the sunset on the way back on your ride.
The ride cost us $5 each, and it was 20 minutes each way, stopping at a small village, where locals try and sell their Bamboo Railway inspired merchandise.
Vineyard and Bat Tree
The following day was our first full day in Battambang. Small picked us up around 10am and by the sounds of it we had a lot to fit into one day. First was a trip to Cambodia’s only vineyard. When we got there, it was easy to see why Cambodia is not known for it’s wine and it’s fairly safe to say the Cambodian wine industry probably won’t be taking off any time soon. With the vineyard looking slightly unloved, we opted against tasting some of their wine.
Outside the vineyard, Small pointed out the more spectacular sight of hundreds of huge Fruit Bats hanging from a large tree.
Wat Banan Temple
Next up, was a visit to Wat Banan Temple. The temple is infamous for the 358 steps which need to be climbed to reach the complex, which are far from the easy to climb in 35 Degree heat.
The temples are believed to have been built in any time around the 10th and 12th century, so the buildings are slightly ran down, but they’re not doing bad seen as though they are potentially over 1000 years old.
The sweaty walk up the steps is well worth it when you get to the top, with amazing views looking over the Cambodian countryside. After we’d manoeuvred back down the steep steps, we rewarded ourselves with a bit of food and a fresh coconut from the stalls at the foot of the temple.
The Killing Caves
After the well deserved rest, we jumped back in Smalls tuk tuk where he took us to our next destination, The Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau.
Small took us to the foot of the mountain which contained the caves, as tuk tuks cannot drive up the steep windy roads leading up the mountain. There’s a choice when deciding how to get to the caves up the mountain, walk or hire a scooter and a guide to take you up. With it being around 35 Degrees, we obviously hired a guide on a scooter for $3 each. The guides are actually very knowledgeable and were worth the $3.
The guides were very informative and had plenty of stories which we were told about what went on at the caves. The things the guides were telling us were just as unbelievable and sickening as the stories told at the Killing Fields. The Killing Caves were another eye opening experience around the unbelievable terror Cambodia endured under Khmer Rouge.
At the top of the mountain where the killing caves lie, there is a temple, which the guides on the scooters took us up to. Once again we witnessed amazing views over the Cambodian countryside.
Finally, our last destination of the day was a small walk away, to Battambang’s famous Bat Caves. We perched ourselves at the view point at the bottom of the mountain ready to watch the bats fly out of the cave for the night. The bats start to fly out at around 5:30pm. Apparently there are around 5 million bats which fly out of the cave, which is believable as the stream of bats seemed to be never ending.
All in all, the day made the trip to Battambang worthwhile. We paid $10 each, between 3 of us to Small for the day, the entry to the Temples and Killing Caves was $3 each and to hire the guide and scooter ride up and down the Killing Caves was $3 each. Not including food and drink, the whole day cost us $16 each.