Best things to do in Battambang, Cambodia

by Meagan

Find out why Battambang is one of Cambodia's fastest growing tourist destinations. This insider's guide shares the very best things to see and do while in town.

Colonial charm, verdant scenery, a relaxed atmosphere – it’s easy to see why so many travelers fall in love with Battambang. Famous nationally as the source of Cambodia’s best rice, oranges and singers, Battambang is also one of the country’s fastest growing tourist destinations.

Located between Siem Reap (3 hours) and Phnom Penh (5 hours), the town makes a convenient stopover for overland travelers. Foreign visitors find a relatively quiet town with a small expatriate scene and some lovely cafes and boutique hotels, many of which are set up as social enterprises. It’s a great place to experience local Cambodian life while still enjoying some western comforts.

For anyone who wants to know about things to do in Battambang, here are 7 of the very best options to check out with a handy map to help you plan your day.

Map of Battambang

Soksabike tour

Discover village life by cycling into the leafy countryside around Battambang.  Guided by local university students, the Soksabike tour offers a fascinating introduction to rural Cambodian life.  As well as enjoying the beautiful scenery you will have the opportunity to learn about local cottage industries.  See how people make a living producing rice paper, noodles, wine, bamboo sticky rice, prahoc (fish paste), banana chips and more.  Speak directly to the producers and perhaps even taste their products or try your hand at making them.  Soksabike is run as a social enterprise which supports the local community.

Smokin’ Pot Cooking School

Learn to cook authentic Khmer and Thai cookery in a relaxed, friendly and fun atmosphere.  This excellent cooking school was among the first in Cambodia and remains one of the best.  Visit the local market you buy your ingredients fresh and learn all about the diverse fresh food items for sale.  This is the kind of class where you cook each dish completely from scratch, learning new techniques and get personalised attention.  You leave with a full stomach, a cookbook and, best of all, the ability to recreate Khmer food in your own kitchen - a wonderful "souvenir" to take home!

A Khmer feast
A Khmer feast
Riding the bamboo train
Riding the bamboo train

Bamboo train

Take a ride on the "bamboo train", before it closes down forever.  The train is a clever low tech solution to make use of an abandoned railway line.  Consisting of a bamboo platform resting on two axles and powered by a go-kart sized engine, the bamboo train tears along at about 15-20 kilometres per hour, stopping to dismantle whenever it meets another coming in the opposite direction.  It is used to transport people and produce to market and, increasingly, tourists keen to experience this novel form of transport.  It’s a lot of fun and interesting to see how people make use of the resources available to them.  A new railroad is currently being built which means the bamboo train will soon be phased out.

Phnom Sampeau

Hire a motorbike and drive the 12 kilometres to Phnom Sampeau, a limestone hill topped with temples.  This site was used as an interrogation centre by the Khmer Rouge and a visit to the killing caves is a worthwhile, if sobering, reminder of the very recent horrors Cambodia has experienced.

Phnom Banan

Take a tuk-tuk to Phnom Banan and see beautiful 11th century temple ruins.  Climb the 358 stairs to reach the five spired temple and be rewarded with outstanding views of the surrounding countryside – bright green rice fields as far as the eye can see.

Detail at Phnom Banon
Detail at Phnom Banon
Floating villages
Floating villages

Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus

Visit a weekly circus show by incredibly talented young Khmer acrobats, jugglers and trapeze artists.  Circus techniques are mixed with other disciplines to create truly stunning artistic performances.  The circus is produced by Phare Ponleu Selpak , an organisation which originated in Thai border refugee camps in the 1980s, and now delivers education and arts programs to meet the psychosocial needs of children facing deep social issues.  The circus regularly tours internationally and many graduates have gone on to become international performing arts professionals.

Boat trip to Siem Reap

If you take only one boat trip in this watery country make it this one.  Over the 5-9 hour journey to Siem Reap you can observe river life on the outskirts of Battambang, spot exotic birds as you meander through protected wetlands and pass through floating villages of the Tonle Sap.  The trip is best when the river is high – otherwise some sections are very narrow and shallow, resulting in a difficult trip.  A word of warning – this is ordinary public transport and is a long and sometimes uncomfortable journey – bring food, hat, sunscreen, ear plugs and plenty of patience!

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There are many more wonderful things to do in Battambang.  Enjoy sunset drinks at the riverside Balcony Bar, explore the heritage houses of Wat Kor Village or seek out some truly local experiences...

What would you add to the list?


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Updated: 04/28/2012, Meagan
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Sheri_Oz on 08/24/2012

OK. Now I've put Cambodia on my must-see list. Thanks for the tour.

katiem2 on 04/09/2012

It all sounds and looks magnificent. Thank you for the virtual tour of cambodia, what an amazing place I would like to visit some day. The food looks amazing, a treasured keepsake you will enjoy for years to come as you share the dishes of Battambang

Lauren on 10/01/2011

Hi Megan, I have just seen your comment on another site about cooking abroad and saw that you are also in cambodia- are you still here. I have recenlty arrived in Phnom Penh and am looking forward to cooking at home and exploring the countryside!

celeBritys4africA on 07/08/2011

I like the way you presented here..

Meagan on 06/29/2011

Thanks sheilamarie and tandemonimom - I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've got some more pages on Cambodia on the way. And yes, cooking skills and ideas are one of my favourite kinds of souvenirs!

tandemonimom on 06/27/2011

Fascinating trip to Cambodia! I love the idea of taking home cooking skills as a "souvenir."

sheilamarie on 06/27/2011

Interesting introduction to Cambodia.

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