Battambang is a lesser known city in Cambodia, but one that is worth the trip. Three hours from Siem Reap, or five from Phnom Penh, it is very possible to add to your travels. There are plenty of things to do in Battambang, and you shouldn’t miss it!
The killing caves:
A tuktuk ride from town to the killing caves is around $15 USD. Our guide was so helpful, and explained what we should look out for, in our climb up the mountain. A temple, used by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s to carry out their atrocities, also has a cave next to it. Here, there are the remains of some of those who perished, and a reclining Buddha, restoring peace. It is horrific to see, to comprehend the deaths of 2000 people in this area.
Further up the mountain, there are more temples, with incredible views out in every direction. The spires are crawling with monkeys; take care not to pull out any food on your visit, or you’ll be quickly covered in scrambling cheeky monkeys.
The bat caves:
At the bottom of the mountain above, there are bat caves. The locals have made something of this spectacle, and there are tiny plastic chairs so you can enjoy a cool drink in the light of the setting sun. At dusk, a flood of bats stream out of the cave, rolling across the countryside. It is a true spectacle, which lasts half an hour. I gaped in awe, laughing at how is was possible for them to all know it’s time to get up and find dinner, all one million of them.
The bats here are protected, as the government identities their benefit in crop protection. Eating 50-100% of their body weight each night, they eat 2000 tons of insects per year, which equates to saving enough rice from destruction to feed 20,000 Cambodians each year. Magical.
Go to the circus:
The Battambang circus may be less well known than the Siem Reap Circus, but it is where it all began. The Battambang circus school was started 25 years ago, and sends its best students to perform in Siem Reap. Tickets are cheaper at the Battambang Circus at $14 each. It’s so cool to support a school that helps one thousand students pursue the arts. The circus is amazing, with plenty of fire, flips, juggling and tricks, all under the big top. It runs on Mondays and Saturdays, and you can attend a few, as they rotate through four different performances. If you stay two weeks you can see them all!
Do a cooking class:
I love cooking classes. They are such a great way to learn more about the local food and culture, and meet some incredible teams. The cooking class at Nary’s kitchen is $10, and is easily modified for vegetarians. Our super-chef, Ro, told us he is driver, cleaner, masterchef and guide.
A trip to the Cambodian markets is unlike anything else you’ll ever see. Ro points out proudly that “Cambodians eat everything”. He warns that he will tell you what’s coming up next, so you can put your hands either side of your face with your horse blinkers. Guy’s got a sense of humour. An empty stomach is the best way to view the very much still moving markets: snakes, fish, turtles, insects, ducks…he said we were lucky there were no dogs this day.
Once back at the kitchen, we put on aprons and hats, and learnt to make spring rolls, luk lak, fish amok, and banana tapioca dessert. It is such a worthwhile class, and far cheaper than you will pay other places!
Get a massage:
The ladies at Nature Boutique Spa will take good care of you! The building has just opened, and is beautiful. They have clean, spacious treatment rooms, music, and even a shower to wash off when they are finished. Beli the dog is also beyond cute if you need further convincing. They have 30% off from 12-4pm too!
Eat a waffle:
The Battambang Cafe and Bar has the best waffles I’ve ever eaten, and for $1, it’s a must try! They have perfected the Belgian recipe (I’d say taken it and made it even better!). Their coffee and other food is also great.
Where to stay:
There are a few hostels that are central. I stayed at Here Be Dragons, which is run by an English couple, who have plenty of lovely Khmer staff. If you book through booking.com, you can get 10% off by clicking here. The food is great, the vibe is chill, and they are helpful in booking onwards travel or tuktuks for day trips if you need help.
Battambang is a chilled place, and I happily could have stayed a few more days. There is a container bar that I didn’t get time to check out, but you could add to the list of things to do in Battambang. I really hope you find time to get here; cheap, chill, and carefree. Couldn’t ask for more!
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