Monday, March 28, 2011

Battambang, Cambodia
Sitting on the Sangker River just south west of the Tonle Sap Lake, Battambang town is at the heart of Cambodia's 'rice bowl', and even though it is the country's second biggest town, it still has a very local, untouristed, provincial atmosphere. Much of the architecture is French colonial and traditional Cambodian. Few buildings are over three stories, and the main streets are shared by cars and horse carts alike. Unlike more touristed towns, the local economy is truly local - based firmly in rice, wood, sapphires and food crops - and is reflected in the character of the town. Similarly, as you leave Battambang by road, the scene quickly becomes one of small villages, rice paddies, and farmland, offering an excellent opportunity for the visitor to see a bit of 'unspoiled' rural Cambodia. The nearby countryside also harbors old pagodas, Angkorian era ruins, caves, waterfalls, and even Khmer Rouge period killing fields. Battambang means ‘disappearing stick’, and is named after a powerful stick used by a legendary Khmer king to achieve and maintain power in the Battambang area.
Getting to Battambang
At time of printing there are no flights to Battambang.
Siem Reap to Battambang
Daily ferry departs in each direction at 7:00am. $20-$25/person. It's a picturesque, 6-8 hour journey across the Tonle Sap and along the Sangker River in the wet season, but can be considerably longer in the dry season due to low water levels. Ask about current conditions. The boats in no way meet international safety standards. There is no direct boat from Phnom Penh.
(National Routes #6 and #5, via Sisophon): The road from Battambang to Siem Reap around the west side of the lake is in excellent condition. The perennially broken stretch between Siem Reap and Sisophon has been fully repaired.
Three bus companies (including Neak Krorhorm, Phnom Penh Sorya and Rith Mony) run one or two daily a/c buses, most leaving in the morning. Buy tickets at the bus company office (see map.) $4-$5, 2½-3 hours.
A private taxi costs $35-$45 and takes about 3 hours.
Phnom Penh to Battambang
(291km, National Route #5): The road is paved and in good condition.
Several bus companies (including Phnom Penh Sorya, Neak Krorhorm and Capitol Tours) run multiple daily buses between Phnom Penh to Battambang. First bus departs at 6:30AM and the last at 3:00PM. Fare: 17,000R-20,000R. The trip takes 5 hours. In Battambang, buses depart from the various transportation company offices.
A private taxi is $35 - $45. Shared taxi: 25,000R per person. 4 hours. Prices for shared local transport are very nominal, but are also crowded and uncomfortable. Buy more than one place for the extra leg room.
Getting Around Battambang
Like most of Cambodia, the choice is motorcycle taxi (motodup), rent a car with driver, or rent a motorcycle. Your hotel can arrange a car or motorcycle rental. Cars are about $20/day and motorcycle rental runs $5-$8/day - a bit more expensive than other towns. Motodups are plentiful during the day. Just step onto the street and they will find you. They can be much more difficult to find at night. A ride in town should range 500 to 1500 riel.
Battambang Hotels/Guesthouses
Au Cabaret Vert
Range: $50
The Cabaret Vert is an eco-resort. You are welcome in spacious bungalows around a natural swimming pool. Its restaurant offers French cuisine (foie gras, andouillette, ...) but also the Cambodian cooking (our speciality: fish amok). It is about an ecological hotel where everything is made in the respect for the nature: swimming pool without chlorine, air conditioning by geothermal science, watering of the garden by rainwater. The team of Cabaret Vert also proposes you visits of Battambang and its countryside.
Tel: 053-6562000
Range: $50-$85 (breakfast included)
New, fully outfitted and equipped hotel/resort complex sporting well-appointed, traditionally inspired rooms. All rooms with a/c/ CTV, DVD, stocked mini-bar, wifi, en suite bathroom with hot/ water. Swimming pool and full restaurant and bar serving Cambodian and international fare. Located in a quiet area on the east side of the river only 2 minutes from town center.
Tel: +(855)(0)53-953900
Range: $10-$30
Clean, Australian managed guesthouse in the center of town offering fan and a/c rooms with cable TV, en suite bathroom. Lightning fast wifi internet access in the restaurant and rooms. Western food. Tour services and expert travel advice. Motorcycle rental. Free pick up service and free wifi.
Tel: +(855)(0)53-730544
Khemara Battambang I Hotel 
Range: $20 - $450
92 rooms. A/c rooms and suites with all amenities: cable TV, fridge, en suite with hot water. Swimming pool. Located in a quiet area. Large parking area. Karaoke rooms. Conference rooms and banquet facilities. Gym, sauna, spa, steam. Free Wifi in rooms. Restaurant.
Tel: +(855)(0)53-737878, +(855)(0)17-612168
Fax: +(855)(0)53-732626
E-mail: /
La Villa
Range: $60-$85
Nicely restored 1930s colonial house. Seven rooms with a/c and fan, stylishly decorated with antiques and Art Deco furniture. Western and Asian food and a wide selection of cocktails served in the a/c restaurant or garden. Swimming pool.
Tel: +(855)(0)53-730151, +(855)(0)17-411880
Range: $5-$12
Overlooking a nice little park near the entrance to town. Reasonably priced a/c and fan rooms with attached bathroom, cable TV, hot water and fridge. Free pick up.
Tel: +(855)(0)53-953773, +(855)(0)12-817170    
Spring Park Hotel
Range: $6-$35
Located near the New Iron Bridge at the south end of town. A/c and fan rooms with all amenities including IDD and Internet port. En suite bathroom. Conference room. Elevator. Free Pick up. Boat, bus tickets available.
Range: $40-$120
A leading hotel in Battambang with 130 rooms and suites. Walk only 5 minutes from ferry dock and a 10-15 minute walk to visit colonial architecture, the provincial hall, Phsar Nat and historic pagodas.
Tel: +(855)(0)53-953495
Battambang Restaurants/Bars
On the menu: Traditional Cambodian dishes (with our specialty: fish amok!) and French cuisine (delicious home-made foie gras, andouillette with mash potatoes). Without forgetting to mention the daily special !  New wines are selected each month to awaken new flavors over the dishes. Fine dining in a calm atmosphere ! The bar space offers various cocktails, rums, teas and expresso to enjoy at the counter or at the pool.
The Apple of Love (Pomme d’amour)
Patrice cooks Khmer cuisine with a French twist, sophisticated and creative. As the food is exceptional, the cozy atmosphere is exquisite and the local staff a delight. All the culinary delights are gathered in the Apple of Love front the appetizer to the wine card offering all of the wines on the planet.
The Bamboo Train Café and Bar Welcoming local restaurant a wide selection of Cambodian dishes as well as several western selections. Very nice Cambodian curries and local salads such as Green Mango Salad and Banana Flower Salad. Western breakfasts, burgers, pizzas and more. Full bar and pool table. Open 7:00AM - 9:30PM. Tel: 012-517125
Bus Stop Guesthouse  The home of the Premiere League in Battambang. Crazy drink promotions during Premiere League. All Games Live on the 42" Mega Screen! Australian run sports bar and pub offering quality pub food with all your favorites, from schnitzels to hamburgers, even bangers and mash. Full English breakfasts a specialty. Icy cold beer and full spirit menu. Rock n Roll music from the 50's to the 90's. No hip hop! Expert travel advice. Open 6:30AM - Late.
The Bungalow Guesthouse Restaurant Guesthouse restaurant and bar with an photo extensive menu of Khmer and Thai dishes as well as some western food including burgers and pizzas. Comfortable place. Good food. Some of the best coffee in town.
Chinese Noodle Restaurant Inexpensive local restaurant Just a few doors down from the White Rose. Very good fresh made noodles, noodle soup, lots of Chinese dishes. Good place for a local breakfast noodle soup (kuiteo) or fried meat and rice.
The Colonial Friendly welcoming little town center restaurant serving up some very nice beef steaks, meat and vegetable pies, pastas and toasted sandwiches at very reasonable prices. Pan fried beef steak with home-made wine, garlic, mushroom or pepper sauce. Chicken and mushroom pie and curry vegetable pie. Drinks, snacks and more.
Fresh Eats NGO-based training café and restaurant serving Khmer and western food. All-day western breakfasts. Free wifi. Located on Street 2-1/2.
  Khmer Delight Restaurant Popular city center restaurant offering Asian/European traditional and fusion cuisines – an interesting array of choices, including such Khmer favorites as Lok Lak as well as dishes from Indonesia, Italy, Australia and France. Excellent lasagna. Very generous portions at very reasonable prices. Great value. Delicious Battambang fruit shakes. Beer and wine.
La Villa The finest western dining in Battambang. Excellent western and Asian food and a wide range of cocktails served in an a/c restaurant or the garden patio of a nicely restored 1930s colonial villa. Wine selection. Western managed. Located on the river road on the east side of the
Friendly family atmosphere of Patrice and his lovely Khmer wife Nary, where you can enjoy a drink, draft beer, cocktail, home-made rum and a large variety of ice creams and local snacks. Some of the best crepes in Cambodia. A Battambang meeting place. 6AM-Midnight. Great place for breakfast an espresso before catching the boat to Siem Reap.
Riverside Balcony The name says it. Very pleasant riverside location. Western managed balcony bar and restaurant hovering over the banks of a quiet stretch of the Sangker River. Beer, spirits and good conversation. Burgers, pasta, enchiladas, specials on the board.
White Rose Long popular with the NGO crowd, this small, corner shop Cambodian restaurant offers an extensive menu, good Cambodian food, ice cream, reasonable prices and ponderous service. Street 2.. 6:30AM - 10PM.
Battambang: What to See
Battambang City is absolutely full of wonderful colonial-era architecture and historic old pagodas, and the surrounding countryside harbors not only Angkorian-era temple ruins and pagodas but also offers some of the most picturesque rice paddy and village scenery in the country. The new edition of Ray Zepp’s essential guide to Battambang and the surrounding area, Around Battambang, is available at tourist hotels and restaurants throughout Battambang City. Zepp’s 164 page guide contains invaluable information on Battambang’s historic pagodas, Angkorian era temple ruins, surrounding countryside and local travel details. Highly recommended. 
Bamboo Train
The bamboo train is a unique and creative form of ad-hoc local transportation. It consists of a small (perhaps 2.5m x 4m), motorcycle engine-powered bamboo cart that rides the railroad rails picking up and dropping off passengers, cargo, animals, motorcycles along the way. When it meets on on-coming train or bamboo train, it can be disassembled and taken off the rails in a minute or two, allowing the other to pass. When touring the countryside ask your driver to take you to a rail crossing where you can meet a bamboo train to take a ride.
The Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO gives Cambodian children from poor and disabled families the opportunity to “access culture via different artistic activities” including music, drawing, drama, dance and circus. Offering traditional Cambodian circus acts every Thursday evening. Call 053-952424, 017-696371 for schedule updates. Located on Route #5 about 1km west of town.
Website: .
Cooking Classes
Nary Kitchen is offering twice daily Cambodian cooking classes, morning and afternoon, taught by Ms. Nary. The class is about 2-1/2 hours and includes a market trip, preparing a single traditional Cambodian meal (recipe sheet included) and then enjoying the fruits of your labor for lunch or dinner. See map for location. Tel: 012-763950.
Countryside Tour
The rural countryside outside of Battambang is National Geographic picturesque. Within just a few kilometers of town the countryside turns into small villages filled with stilted houses and rice paddies that stretch to the horizon. You’ll see plenty of countryside on the way to any of the local sites. Check out some of the local products in the making - rice paper, noodles and the fishpaste market. It’s all very traditional if not a bit unhygienic and smelly, but a interesting experience and adventure nonetheless. The roads are often rough and during the dry season. always exceptionally dusty. Bring a good hat and a krama to cover your nose and mouth.
Ek Phnom
Ek Phnom is an 11th century Angkorian-era ruin built as a Hindu temple under Suryavarman I. The temple consists of prasats on a platform with some carvings in pretty good condition. Wat Ek Phnom, a modern pagoda, sits next to the ruin. The river road drive to Ek Phnom from Battambang passes through small villages and rice paddies and is an absolutely beautiful countryside drive. 
Phnom Banan
Phnom Banan is a mountain top, 11th century Angkorian-era ruin consisting of five prasats. Peaceful location with a nice view of the area. Also L’Ang But Meas cave. Very old (150 years+) active pagoda at the base of the mountain.
Both Battambang town and the surrounding countryside are replete with pagodas, some of them very old and highly respected. See Ray Zepp's bookAround Battambang for complete information about visiting the local pagodas.

Phnom Sampeou Mountain
Phnom Sampeou Mountain, steeped in legend, and topped by Wat Sampeou and a group of caves used as ‘killing caves’ by the Khmer Rouge, containing the skeletal remains of their victims. The wat is unexceptional but the view is spectacular. Ask about the legend of Neang Rumsay Sok. 
Provincial Museum
The Battambang Provincial Museum on the riverfront in the center of town houses a large collection of Angkorian and pre-Angkorian artifacts - statues, carvings, bits of ancient temples, pottery, etc. One of the best provincial museums. Hours: 8AM-11AM/2PM-5PM, make reservations for weekend visit and they will open the door for you. Admission: $1. Tel: 092-914688, 016-896727.
Shopping in Battambang

Phsar Nath in the center of town is the main phsar (traditional market) and is geared to the locals, sporting the usual variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, clothes, sundries, food stalls, etc. Gem dealers, a couple of banks, photo shops and moneychangers line the streets that ring the phsar. Phsar Leu, just south of town, seems to be the place to buy the local specialties: oranges and pomelos from Pursat province. The oranges are said to be the best oranges in the country.
Chea Neang Drink Shop is a small convenience store on the west side of Phsar Nath, popular with foreigners and offering ice cream bars, cheeses, yogurt, wines, and other imported items.
The Smiling Sky Bookshop Second hand bookshop dealing in English language books - Cambodia related titles, novels, popular literature. Buy sell trade. On Road #2 near the White Rose.
Local goods Marble sculpture from Pursat province, woodcarvings from Battambang and sapphires from Pailin dominate the souvenir market in Battambang. Many of the hotels as well as the small souvenir/art/curios shops on Road #1 on the river in the center of town offer a selection of wood and marble products. The art shops have a better selection than the hotels and a couple have very interesting collections of curios, old trinkets, coins, antiques and oddities - well worth a look.
 Cambodian sapphires and rubies mined in Pailin near the Thai border are brought to Battambang to be graded, cut and polished. There are some good deals on stones in Battambang but be very careful when buying. Fake and low quality jewel scams are common so you need to know gemology or know your gem dealer very well. Gem and gold dealers are located in the center of Psah Nath, in little shops surrounding the psah, and in a few shops on Road #1.  
Internet/Phone in Battambang
There are Internet shops all over town. KCT Internet Cafés has a shop next to the White Rose restaurant. Teo Hotel also has a small Internet shop. Access is relatively fast and stable. About $1.50/hour. Most internet shops offer very inexpensive internet phone. Bus Stop Guesthouse has free wifi, probably the fastest in town.
Banks in Battambang
Like the rest of Cambodia, the Cambodian riel is the official currency but the US Dollar is the de facto tender. Hotel prices are set in dollars. Unique to Battambang and western Cambodia, Thai baht is in common use as well.
Banks and ATMs
All banks encash travelers checks and change money and most have ATMs.Canadia Bank, UCB and ANZ Royal are located in front of Phsar Nath, all with ATMs. The ACLEDA Bank on the east side of the river offers Western Union. Moneychanger/goldsellers are concentrated around the market with a few along Road #1.


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