The fine Cambodian city of Battambang can be traced back in part to French colonialism. This intriguing destination sits in the Northwestern section of the country in Battambang Province and was one of the top producers of rice in Cambodia years ago.
The city has a population of about 100,000 people these days and as mentioned, you can really see the examples and influences of the French Colonial era. Still, it also has a wonderful small-town atmosphere about it and you’ll find small villages just a hop, skip and jump away.
(photo credit: pigalleworld)
Battambang was actually a part of Siam (Thailand) for hundreds of years and it was one of the country’s top commercial hubs. The town’s more or less considered to be the gateway between Phnom Penh and Thailand and is the second largest in Cambodia. It’s an ideal spot if you’d like to visit some of the fascinating local temples, sculptures, and sandstone carvings.
There’s also an excellent museum where you can learn about the local history, culture, and traditions. This museum features numerous artifacts from the city of Battambang and the surrounding area. Next door to the museum, you’ll find a display that tells all about the local fishing and agricultural practices as well as folk tales and stories on local legends.
One of the more interesting sites in the area is the educational home which is located in the village of Anh Chanh. This site can be traced back to a refugee camp on the Thai border back in 1986, known as Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS). The young refugees were taught how to overcome the horrors of war by expressing themselves though art and various other avenues.
The children are now all young adults and they run this home in the village. The home enables about 100 youngsters to get an education and support and enjoy activities such as music and animation. They even have a circus there where local resident can come out to share in the fun. Some of the local restaurants also offer traditional Cambodian cooking courses.
Another fun activity to try out after the circus is to take a ride on a bamboo train. Local residents call these trains ‘norry’ and they’re built out of wood with bamboo decking. The wheels and engine are salvaged from old war tanks. The steel wheels roll down a track from Battambang to the outlying area of Phnom Penh.
However, be aware that these bamboo trains aren’t exactly government approved if you catch my drift. But you can book a trip on one via most hotels and the city’s taxi and tuk-tuk drivers.
In fact, touring the local countryside by motorbike taxi is one of the most fun ways to do it. The driver will take you around the beautiful villages and farms while you soak in the local way of life. Some of the most popular sites to check out include Wat Sampeau, Wat Ek Phnom, Wat Banan, and Wat Baydamram. When you reach Wat Baydamram you might be amazed at all of the bats hanging in the trees on the temple grounds.
One of the most interesting villages is Watkor, which is a stone’s throw from the city. There are just over a handful of old wooden houses there that are close to 100 years old. There are also several other tools and artifacts there that have been around for a century or more.
When you reach the Naga for Peace and Development Monument, you’ll be reminded of wartime in the area. This monument was finished in 2007 and built out of weapons that Battambang residents surrendered. The Japanese government sponsored the monument as a way to honor Cambodia’s peace commitment.
A trip to beautiful Battambang city and province will allow you to see and respect the way of life in Cambodia today, which is serene and peaceful.