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Battambang, Cambodia

Sitting on the Sangker River just southwest of the Tonle Sap Lake, Battambang town is at the heart of Cambodia's 'rice bowl', and even though it is one of the country's largest towns it still has a very lightly touristed, provincial atmosphere. Much of the architecture is colonial-era with traditional shophouses lining quaint narrow lanes. There are plenty of hotels in town these days including several new mid-range places. And a pleasant little walking district is taking shape in the old colonial blocks just south of the market - restaurants, cafes, a few shops and bars...

As you leave the town by road, the scenery quickly becomes one of villages and rice paddies, offering an excellent opportunity to see a bit of 'unspoiled' rural Cambodia. The nearby countryside harbors several picturesque old pagodas, Angkorian era ruins, caves, waterfalls, and even Khmer Rouge killing field.

‘Battambang’ means ‘disappearing stick,’ from the legend of a powerful staff wielded by the legendary ruler Ta Dambang to achieve and maintain power in the area. A statue of Ta Dambang and the stick stand imposingly at the eastern entrance to the town on Route #5.

Battambang: What to See

Battambang City is absolutely full of wonderful colonial-era architecture and historic old pagodas, and the surrounding countryside harbors not only Angkorian-era ruins and historic pagodas but also offers some of the most picturesque rice paddy and village scenery in the country.

Bamboo Train

The bamboo train is a unique and creative form of ad-hoc local transportation. It consists of a small motorcycle engine-powered bamboo cart that rides the railroad tracks, picking up and dropping off passengers, cargo, animals, motorcycles along the way. When it meets on-coming train or bamboo train, it can be disassembled and taken off the rails in a minute or two, allowing the other to pass. Cambodia is currently in the process of upgrading its rail system. When the Battambang tracks are replaced, the Bamboo Train will likely come to an end. If you ever wanted to try the bamboo train, it’s now or never.


The Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO gives Cambodian children from disadvantaged families the opportunity to “access culture via different artistic activities” including music, drawing, drama, dance and circus. Offering traditional Cambodian circus performances and other show. Look for fliers around town.

Tel: 012-890360; 053-952424

Located on Route #5 about 1km west of town

Phnom Sampeou Mountain

Phnom Sampeou is a mountain steeped in legend, topped by Wat Sampeou and a group of caves used as 'killing caves' by the Khmer Rouge, containing the skeletal remains of their victims. The wat is unexceptional but the view is spectacular. The whole area in intertwined with the well-known Khmer folk legend of Neang Rumsay Sok, 'the girl who let down her hair.' Many of the local geographic features are named after aspects of the legend, including Phnom Sampeou (Boat Mountain.) Ask your guide or driver to tell you the legend. For sake of ease, take the winding path up the mountain rather than the stairs. The stairs make for a formidable climb.

Phnom Banan

Phnom Banan Phnom Banan is a mountaintop, mid-11th century Angkorian-era ruin consisting of five prasats (towers) arranged in the quincunx (five-pointed) form reminiscent of Angkor Wat. The temple was built by the Khmer ruler Udayadityavarman II, son of Suryavarman I, the king who built the temple at Ek Phnom. Several lintel carvings are in good condition. The mountaintop is a peaceful location with a sweeping view of the surrounding area. There is a small cave nearby known as L’Ang But Meas. A very old (150 years+) active pagoda at the base of the mountain. As both are south of Battambang City, the trip to Phnom Banan is often combined with a stop at Phnom Sampeou.



Battambang town and the surrounding countryside are rich with beautiful old pagodas, some of them hundreds of years old, highly respected and displaying some very unique art and architecture. There are nine pagodas in Battambang town alone. In town, Wat Kandal displays some of the most interesting architecture and vihear paintings. Wat Tahm Rei Saw, built in 1903, is one of those rare Cambodian wats to display paintings of the Hindu epic Reamker. See absolutely indispensable Around Battambang for more information about visiting the local pagodas.

Ek Phnom

Ek Phnom, about 45 minutes from Battambang, is an substantial early-11th century Angkorian-era temple ruin built as a Hindu temple under the ruler Suryavarman I. The temple is in rough condition, consisting of prasats on a platform with some Hindu themed carvings in pretty good condition. Wat Ek Phnom, a modern Buddhist pagoda, sits picturesquely next to the ruin and a small lake. The river road drive to Ek Phnom from Battambang passes through some absolutely beautiful countryside, along a palm lined Stung Sangker river and

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