Battambang is a lovely vibrant but relaxed city with plenty of great things to make it worth a visit. Even though it’s Cambodia’s second largest city, it has a much more chilled atmosphere to the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. A lot of the 20th-century architecture remains which gives it a lovely character. There are all sorts of styles, French colonial, Chinese, Khmer with many ancient pagodas and temples dotted around the city. The Sangker river flows through the middle and is lined with some nice boutique shops and cafés. The university and active art scene also add to the upbeat feel of the place.
If you’re very limited on time in Cambodia and are not heading to Angkor, or looking for a big party place, then Battambang might be one to pass by (although I recommend you do come here if you can!).
Besides just soaking up the atmosphere there are also some great activities around, like the awesome bat caves and thrilling bamboo train to keep you entertained. The town is surrounded by fertile farmed land growing various crops, which you can see selling at the roadside on the city outskirts. You can do some great cultural tours of the surrounding area, to see the life of rural Cambodians.
When To Go
If you can spare the time on the way to or from Angkor, it’s definitely a place worth a day or two of your time.
The name Battambang (pronounced Battambong) means 'disappearing stick'. This comes from the legend of the magical stick the king used to ensure his power and to which there is a statue of on the main roundabout. Any of the tours or English speaking tuk-tuk drivers around town will tell you the full legend with such enthusiasm; so best to hear the details from them!