Experience the vibrancy of Battambang. Part sleepy village, part dynamic city, Battambang has it all. Take a bike ride along the Sangker River where history and modernity merge. Ride through the countryside on the famed bamboo train. And be enchanted by the city’s rich arts and cultural scene.
Go beyond the city’s main sites to discover Battambang’s fascinating countryside and the daily life of its friendly people.
Watch a unique circus, pray alongside local monks and amble through rural villages for a glimpse of Khmer culture.
Climb through the jungle-covered ruins of Banteay Chhmar, a rural Angkorian temple rarely visited by tourists.
Battambang Escape - 3 Days / 2 Nights
Depart from Siem Reap by road in your private vehicle, traveling through the beautiful Cambodian countryside and past rural villages to Battambang (transfer time 3 hours). Upon arrival, you will be taken directly to your hotel for check in.
This afternoon take a ride on the Bamboo Train. The Bamboo Train has been set up by the villagers in order to facilitate the transportation of goods and persons after regular trains stopped running many years ago. The “train” itself is very basic: one bamboo platform on 4-wheels that is propelled by a small motor. Sitting on the platform (we will provide some cushions for your comfort), you will travel the 8 km to the next station through beautiful landscape and rice paddies (depending on season of visit). It’s a true rollercoaster ride without loops!
Afterwards, head towards Phnom Sampeau, meaning “Ship Hill” in Khmer due to its distinctive shape; it is one of the few hills standing out in this otherwise pancake-flat plain. From the small temple on the top you will have a fantastic view over the typical landscape of paddy fields and sugar palm trees. Phnom Sampeau is home to the notorious killing caves, which are cruel reminders of Cambodia’s troubled past. Serenity and inhumanity represented in one place make this an interesting visit.
Your visit will last until dusk, a time when millions of bats emerge from a cave and create patterns as they fly in tandem across the sky – a nightly spectacular show of nature!
Overnight in Battambang.
Battambang’s countryside makes this pleasant town a real treat. It is situated along the Sangker River, a quiet body of water that winds its way through Battambang Province and connects the Tonle Sap Lake and the Cardamom Mountains, feeding the paddy fields with water on the way and resulting in Cambodia’s best rice, which is found here in Battambang Province.
Spend the morning on a tour that combines walking, a boat ride and cycling along and across the Sangke River to experience Battambang daily life. The tour includes prayers with monks as well as rich explanations of the city’s design and artistic heritage.
Begin the tour at 7.30 a.m. at the offices of Battambang Bike and get fitted for your bicycle (either a mountain bike or sturdy basket bike).
Watch a few minutes of film footage that will help you imagine how developed the town was in its heyday. Battambang has passed from Cambodia to Thailand and back again several times in its history and has an excellent collection of early 20th century French colonial architecture that is better preserved and respected than in many other parts of the country.
A tour of the main market, Psar Nath, includes trying a local coffee. Then walk the few metres and cross to the other side of the Sangke River - a couple of minutes by local boat. Visit Wat Povil temple and take the opportunity to pray with the monks (Note: the monks may observe different rituals according to their calendar though can be seen on a daily basis). It is usually possible to accompany the monks back across the river as they begin their morning alms collection.
Once back on the other side it is time to begin the bike tour. The historic Steet 2.5 is visited along with a Thai temple before you arrive at a smaller market. Again, it is time for a coffee or a sugar cane juice. Continue a short distance to Wat Kor Village, known for its many old Khmer heritage houses built around a century ago. Visit one of the best preserved homes.
Cycle along the river and cross a suspension bridge over which only motorbikes and bicycles can pass. On the way back into town there is another short drink stop before arriving back in the town at approximately 12:45 p.m.
Battambang Bike was set up by Jam, a Canadian national who is a lover of architecture and cycling. The above tour was designed exclusively for EXO though alternatives can be provided such as dedicated architecture or amateur photography rides. All their tours are “pay-as-much-as-you-can” for Cambodian guests in order to stimulate local interest in their history and that of the city. The long term goal of Battambang Bike is to pass ownership to a Cambodian national in order to establish a sustainable and well-structured business.
Stop for lunch at the Fresh Eats Café, set up by a non-profit NGO operating with orphans and vulnerable children that live on the streets or have been trafficked. The organization helps them to reintegrate into society by giving them a safe family environment, access to education and vocational training as well as health treatment.
In the afternoon you will visit a few of the villages around Battambang by car to learn how the locals produce rice paper, prahoc (tradtional Cambodian fish paste), grolan (sticky rice stuffed in bamboo), and other Cambodian treats.
This evening, a special visit awaits you at Phare Ponleu Selpak. School of Music, and both Visual and Performing Arts, Phare Ponleu Selpak combines the arts to provide education, support and entertainment to poor communities. This project is a success story of how, against all odds, humanitarian aid work can turn into a display of zest for life, genuine warmth and creativity. A visit to one of their circus shows will leave you with a lasting memory of the wonderful Cambodian people and should not be missed when in Battambang! (Note: The circus at the school is not performed nightly. On days with no scheduled show, private performances are available on request and for a supplement).
Overnight in Battambang.
Depart Battambang this morning for the drive to Banteay Chhmar (2-3 hrs), a place of exceptional atmosphere that gets very few visitors. Begin with the main temple itself which is on the list of possible, future UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Banteay Chhmar was constructed by the great King Jayavarman VII and is probably the most stunning temple site outside of the Siem Reap area. Feel like a temple discoverer as you clamber amongst the ruins that are still being reconstructed today. Almost every step within this vast ruin gives another fabulous picture of stone being consumed by nature. It is a spectacular sight with its Bayon-style towers and walls cloaked with vegetation. Your visit will be assisted by a local guide as part of a community tourism project.
Take a break for a simple, local lunch at the community center.
After, take a local transport similar to a tractor called a ‘kuyon’ part of the way to the Banteay Torp temple. A fun way to travel Khmer style amongst some delightful rural scenery. Explore the small but atmospheric temple with its famous tower that looks ready to collapse at any time!
Now it is time to head to Siem Reap (3 hrs) where you can choose to overnight and continue to explore Cambodia or depart on an evening flight to your next destination.
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