Battambang might not be on everyone’s list, but it’s worth taking a trip from Siem Reap for its two top attractions: the legendary bat cave and the ingenious bamboo train.
Other top things to do in Battambang include the chilling Killing Cave and Cambodia’s only winery alongside Angkorian temples and rich architectural heritage.
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How many days do you need in Battambang?
Let’s start with the basics. So how many days do you need in Battambang? Two days would be just enough time to get to grips with all the amazing things to do and see in Battambang.
Most of the top attractions are outside the city. That’s why it’s best to have that extra day to visit at least some of the top places in Battambang. Also, you need to ride that iconic bamboo train because it’s one of the most bonkers things you’ll do in Battambang. Seriously, It’s so much fun.
Here are our top suggestions for what to do in Battambang in two days. And we'll start with the most exciting bit.
The absolute top things to do in Battambang
If you only have one day in Battambang, we suggest hiring a tuk-tuk or a motorbike. But start your day early.
The earlier you start, the more time you'll have to ride the bamboo train and explore the Killing Caves. Be sure to stay out till dusk and watch the spectacular bat show with a bottle of cold Cambodian beer.
Hop aboard the ingenious bamboo train in Battambang
Ever since we saw the Battambang bamboo train featured on the BBC website, we wanted to try it. It’s safe to say that the train was the main reason why we came here to Battambang.
The ingenious bamboo train is a collection of small bamboo motorised platforms which run up and down a disused rail line. You can jump on board for a return trip for a few dollars and it takes around 45 minutes including a stop at the far end to turn your 'train' around.
For the full effect, you get to sit at the front on a couple of pillows to minimise the bumps on the tracks and the driver stands behind you. So much fun!
But what happens if there is another train coming towards you? Well, you simply need to get off the 'train', lift it off the rails and let the other 'train' pass. Luckily for us, the people on the set in front of us kindly let us pass.
The whole system was born out of necessity at a time when road transport was scarce and expensive. People started to utilize the disused rail tracks across the county as a way to move goods and people around with less effort and expense. It's an amazing example of ingenuity out of adversity.
Since the real train line is being developed in the area, the Bamboo Train has been moved 20km outside the town. The line now starts at Phnom Banan.
Although it might sound like it’s too far, the train is definitely worth the journey. Plus there are many other things to do in Battambang that’ll require you to hire some kind of transportation.
And by hiring a local tuk-tuk or renting a motorbike, you could combine all these sights into one exciting day in Battambang.
Climb the 358 steps to Phnom Banan Temple
Before or after your bamboo train ride, take a look around the beautiful mountaintop Angkorian temple dating back to the 11th century.
It’s one of the best-preserved Khmer temples in Battambang and resembles the legendary Angkor Wat with its five towers.
Be prepared for a tough climb, there are 358 steps leading up to the temple. The climb is totally worth it. Phnom Banan is a lesser-visited temple and can be incredibly peaceful if you’re lucky enough to get there when no one’s around.
It also provides beautiful panoramic views across the green rice fields and the remains of the abandoned baray in the distance.
Explore Phnom Sampeou Mountain and the Killing Cave
If you like visiting film locations on your travels, Battambang was used in the 'First They Killed My Father' movie. The film, directed by Angelina Jolie in 2016, is based on the horrors committed by the Khmer Rouge.
At Phnom Sampeou Mountain, you can see the remains of such horrors with your own eyes. Crowned with Wat Sampeou the mountain is home to natural caves, some of which were used during the blood-curdling Khmer Rouge regime.
That’s one of the reasons why visiting Killing Caves is always mentioned as one of the top things to do in Battambang.
Here people were pushed through a gap in the top of the cave down onto the rocks below. You can see some remaining bones of the many victims as you descend into the grottos.
Aside from the cruelties, the surrounding landscape is beautiful and it’s the top location from where you can witness the spectacular bat show at the end of the day. Naturally, this makes the site very touristy since most of the organised tours end here.
The mountain is located around 12km outside of Battambang. Once you get to the base of the mountain, you'll need to purchase a ticket to be able to see the sights. Afterwards, to reach the top of the mountain, you can have a trek up on a paved road or hire a motorbike taxi.
While the climb isn't extremely strenuous, we recommend jumping on a bike, there's no shortage of very affordable motorbike taxis at the base.
Stay out till dusk for the spectacular bat show
The culmination of your explorations should absolutely end just beneath the Bat Cave. To see the spectacular bat show, you should aim to get back to the base of the mountain just before dusk.
The area is peppered with local bars/restaurants for your comfort. Grab a seat at one of the places and wait for this daily natural occurrence with a cold beer. It's such a fantastic way to end your day.
As the sun sets, you’ll see a slim stream of bats start emerging from the cave. Uniformed, the flow grows steadily into a massive rush of millions of bats flying into the fields toward the lake for a hearty feast.
The rumour has it, that some of the bats get tangled in the fishnets and then appear on the stalls for sale in the local markets.
Unusual things to do in Battambang
Visiting Cambodia's only winery will most likely be one of the most unexpected things to do in Battambang. It sure was for us.
Don't expect a French-style vineyard, just a humble place where the locals sell some of their produce.
Visit Cambodia's only winery
One of the most unusual things to do in Battambang must be visiting Cambodia's only winery. Prasat Phnom Banan Winery, located about 6 miles south of Battambang, was a real surprise to us.
Here, for just a few dollars, you’ll be invited to sit and taste the Cambodian wine made from Syrah grapes, whiskey, and grape and ginger juice. Although we came here for wine, the real winners were the local whiskey and the ginger and honey juice. Both are very potent and yet so smooth and soothing.
Battambang on foot
Founded in the 11th century by the Khmer Empire, Battambang is the second-largest city in Cambodia but fairly laid back compared to its neighbours Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
It’s a perfectly sized city if you are planning on exploring Battambang attractions on foot. And there’s plenty to do if you only have one day in Battambang. From beautiful colonial architecture to night markets, the city is full of surprises. Here are some of the main things to see and do in the city.
Sala Khaet - The Lord Governor's Palace
The Lord Governor's Palace is probably one of the most beautiful places to see in Battambang. Designed and built in the late 1800s by the same Italian architect who designed the Hualamphong Station in Bangkok, Sala Khaet has been damaged in 1911 and lost a few of its architectural features during the many restorations.
This gorgeous yellow and white European-style building, originally built for a Thai governor, is now open to the public from 8 am - 6 pm. It exhibits some of the original pieces of furniture, historic artefacts and traditional Cambodian music instruments.
Visiting the mighty statue of Ta Dumbong is one of the top things to do in Battambang purely because of its size. It’s perched at the eastern end of town where locals come to worship him.
He's at the centre of a rather confusing local legend which features a magic stick that the statue displays today. All you need to know is that the town's name comes from the legend so the statue has become a place of local pilgrimage.
It's a bit of a shame he's in the centre of a roundabout, we guess it makes crossing the busy road a test of true faith!
The central part of the city, between Road 1 and Road 3, houses three beautiful pagodas which you can easily explore while visiting Battambang.
Wat Pipetharam, dating back to 1888 has been heavily influenced by Thai architecture and is one of the most beautiful temples to see in Battambang.
Chinese Temple, also known as the Chinese Spirit House is another beautiful pagoda to visit on your walking tour around Battambang.
Built back in 1905, Wat Damrey Sor meaning 'White Elephant' was also influenced by Thai Buddhist architecture and features beautiful time-tested wooden carvings and lime plaster.
Psar Nath - Battambang night market
Another great thing to do in central Battambang is to pop into Psar Nath, Battambang’s Night Market. The building, although not the most stunning, is the main Art Deco landmark in the city.
As common in SE Asian countries, such markets are brimming with all kinds of food, knick-knacks, things you need and don’t need. It’s the perfect place to pop in for a quick local snack, a full dinner or a wander.
If you are not a fan of closed markets, you can always head to the night market under the stars along the river. It’s also full of food and night shopping for your convenience.
Buffalo Alley and the famous Street 1.5
For things to do in Battambang at night, pop into Buffalo Alley. The name 'Buffalo Alley' comes from the old days when farmers used to rush their buffalos to the river right through this street.
Today the street is buzzing with bars and little restaurants run by friendly locals. We really enjoyed the atmosphere here.
For a quieter affair pop into Street 1.5. It’s famous for its coffee houses and bakeries. For your coffee fix, Try the cute Kinyei Cafe based in an old colonial shophouse. They serve breakfast too.
Getting around Battambang
Battambang is quite a compact city and easy to walk around. But if you are planning to do any sightseeing outside the city, we recommend either renting a motorbike or hiring a tuk-tuk.
To support the local community, we hired a local tuk-tuk for a whole day for just $20. Our driver was lovely and very knowledgeable of the area and made our day a memorable experience.
Battambang to Siem Reap
You have quite a few options to travel from Battambang to Siem Reap and vice versa. While the distance between the cities is only 48 miles, it can still take quite a while to get to your destination.
Mekong Express, one of the biggest bus companies in Cambodia operates between Battambang and Seam Reap. It’ll take you to your destination in around 3 hours. We found their big buses and smaller people carriers quite comfortable, affordable and reliable.
Your other option is to take a boat. It could take up to 8 hours to get to either destination but beware that during the dry season, the boats might be cancelled due to low water levels.
If you are desperate, you could take a taxi from Battambang to Siem Reap or the other way round. It takes under three hours to get there and will cost you just under $100.
Phom Penh to Battambang
If you are travelling from Battambang to Phnom Penh, you can take the trusted Virak Buntham Express bus. They leave Battambang a few times a day and take around 5 hours to get to Phnom Penh.
While travelling around Cambodia we used the super-useful 12Go Asia site to book all our trips in advance. It really helped us to get around Cambodia easily.
Use the quick search tool below to book your tickets. And the best part is you don't even need to print your tickets, just show them on your smartphone.