Battambang is the capital city of Battambang province in north western Cambodia. It’s not a place that you will find on every travellers itinerary (people assume there is nothing there to see, people are wrong!), but we think it should be. In fact we think you should put it on your bucket list for 2016. It really is a special place that offers some amazing activities and sights. Once visited, Battambang is never forgotten.
We had planned to go to Battambang for one reason, the Bamboo train. We considered just doing a day trip from Siem Reap to ride it, but after a bit of research I discovered that Battambang has so much more to offer. One day wouldn’t be enough. Our day trip quickly turned into a 3 day stay, we would have stayed longer but our visas were running out and we had more to explore in Siem Reap before we left the country.
Getting to Battambang from Siem Reap
We had 3 choices, Boat, Bus or Taxi. We opted for the taxi based upon price and convenience but I will break down the options below so you can make your own decision.
Siem Reap to Battambang by Boat
Boats leave Siem Reap daily at 7am, the trip takes about 10 hours and costs around $20 (US) per person, one way. I’ve heard that the scenery is beautiful along the journey, passing by many fishing villages. If you have plenty of time on your hands this is the way to go.
Siem Reap to Battambang by Bus
You can either do a mini bus with Mekong Express (leaves 8am and 2pm, costs $6 one way and takes 3 hours) or take the big bus with Capitol Tours (buses depart from 7.30am-1.30pm, costs $4.50 one way if you buy from the bus station and takes 3.5 hours – you will pay double the price of you book through your hotel). There is not much difference in the journey really, we spoke to travellers who had done both and were equally happy with their transport.
Siem Reap to Battambang by Taxi
We organised a private taxi through our hotel in Siem Reap, we paid $80 for the return journey. It was a door to door service so we didn’t have to factor in paying for tuk tuks once we arrived. The journey took 3 hours. For a family of 4 we found the cost economical, if we were travelling without kids we probably would have gone with the bus.
Things to do in Battambang with Kids (or without)
Ride The Bamboo Train
Want to know why Battambang should be on your bucket list for 2016? The Bamboo Train. You have to ride it before they dismantle it at the end of the year, or you wont have the option. The guys who operate it told us that the government is dismantling it this year to make way for a new train line to Thailand. The train line is great news for travel in Cambodia, but the loss of the Bamboo Train marks the end of an era.
Battambang’s Bamboo Train is a an exhilarating train journey, like no other in the world. The ‘train’ consists of a 3m wooden platform that sits upon huge barbells. Powered by a small petrol engine, you will be propelled along the 7km track at speeds of up to 15km hour (trust me, it feels faster than it sounds). At $5 per person its a budget activity that you will not forget. The track is a single line which means that when a train approaches in the opposite direction someone has to get off the track. Check out the video below to see what happens.
Explore The Countryside by Bike
‘The trip begins with a scenic ride through the Cambodian countryside along peaceful byways. Enjoy the views of people at work on their farms and in their fields. After an hour and half ride, we will arrive at the mountain. There are three caves to visit. The views from the summit are terrific and a can be enjoyed with a cooling mountain breeze. However, the highlight of this tour awaits the visitor at the foot of the mountain, when the colony of bats streams out of the caves.’
Cycling around the countryside gave us a brilliant perspective of everyday life in Cambodia, it was the real deal, not the stuff that you see on the tourist streets. Highly recommended!
Have a night at the Circus
Always a favourite with kids and a social enterprise to boot. Phare is the must see attraction in Cambodia and Battambang is its home. It started back in 1986 in the refugee camps on the Thai border with simple drawing workshops. The experiment continued after the refugees returned to their homelands in Battambang and Phare now has a worldwide reputation.
The performances are mesmerising! These kids are really skilled and the show was one of our highlights of Cambodia. Our kids didn’t move throughout the whole show! Tickets start at a reasonable 18$ for adults and 10$ for kids. Definitely one not to be missed.
Accommodation & Eating Out in Battambang
Battambang is a budget travellers dream come true. Accommodation and food are cheap with a capital C! We stayed at the Emerald BB Hotel in a family room (2 double beds) for $15 per night. The hotel was basic, but it was very clean and the Wi-Fi was included in the price. You could also get a decent breakfast at the café next door for around $3 per person. We don’t often do budget stays but this place was fine for a couple of nights. There are plenty of other budget hotels and guesthouses located on the main drag and around the ‘Pub St’ area. I doubt you need to book ahead, Battambang doesn’t get as busy as Siem Reap.
Eating out is easy, even with kids. There are loads of restaurants along ‘Pub St’ serving Cambodian and Western cuisine. No one will go hungry and every budget is catered f0r. Make sure you try the fish amok, its delicious!
Have we inspired you to put Battambang on your bucket list for 2016? Have you already been to Battambang? Tell us about it in the comments below. What did you think?
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