Battambang, Cambodia’s second-largest city, is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant arts scene, this charming city offers a unique and authentic experience for travelers seeking a taste of the real Cambodia. In this article, we will explore the top things to do in Battambang and uncover the beauty of this lesser-known destination.
1. Visit Wat Banan Temple
Perched atop a hill, Wat Banan Temple is a stunning example of ancient Khmer architecture. The temple, dedicated to Lord Buddha, features five majestic towers that have withstood the test of time. Visitors must climb 300 steep steps to reach the temple, but the breathtaking views and intricate carvings of headless apsaras make the journey well worth it.
2. Explore the Haunting History of Phnom Sampeau
Phnom Sampeau is a hill temple with a dark past. During the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, the area was used as a killing field where innocent citizens were tortured and executed. Today, visitors can pay their respects at the recently-constructed temples and enjoy panoramic views of Battambang from the summit.
3. Unearth the Ancient Ruins of Wat Ek Phnom
Wat Ek Phnom, an 11th-century Hindu temple, is a must-visit for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike. The temple’s remnants are accessed through a Buddhist pagoda, surrounded by 18 Bodhi trees. The bas-reliefs adorning the temple depict tales of the Hindu god Krishna, showcasing the incredible craftsmanship of the ancient Khmer people.
4. Admire the White Elephant Pagoda (Wat Tahm-rai-saw)
The White Elephant Pagoda, or Wat Tahm-rai-saw, is a 19th-century temple dedicated to Lord Buddha. The temple is famous for its life-size sculptures of white elephants carrying portraits of a prince, as depicted in the story of Lord Buddha. This modern temple is a testament to the enduring beauty of Khmer architecture.
5. Immerse Yourself in the Local Art Scene at Sammaki Art Space
Battambang is a city that celebrates and supports the arts. Sammaki Art Space is a venue that showcases and documents the work of both emerging and established artists from around the world. Visit during the annual Angkor Art Expo to witness the flourishing relationship between local and international artists in Battambang.
6. Step Back in Time at Battambang Provincial Museum
The Battambang Provincial Museum is a treasure trove of ancient Khmer artifacts, musical instruments, pottery, and art. The museum, founded by Madeleine Giteau in 1963, houses relics from the pre and post-Angkorian era, offering a fascinating glimpse into Cambodia’s rich history and heritage.
7. Witness the Spectacle of Battambang Bat Caves
The bat caves at the base of Mount Sampeou are a must-see attraction in Battambang. Every evening, thousands of bats emerge from the caves and take flight into the night sky. This awe-inspiring event lasts for around 40 minutes, offering a unique and unforgettable experience for visitors.
8. Be Entertained at Phare Ponleu Selpak – Battambang Circus
Phare Ponleu Selpak is a non-profit arts school in Battambang that supports children, youth, and the surrounding communities through artistic, educational, and social programs. The circus shows, performed by talented students, are a captivating blend of acrobatics, dance, and drama. Be sure to catch a performance during your visit to Battambang!
Battambang is a city that effortlessly combines the charm of the past with the vibrancy of the present. From ancient temples and haunting history to a thriving arts scene and captivating natural wonders, Battambang offers a truly unique and unforgettable experience for travelers seeking a taste of the real Cambodia. Don’t miss the opportunity to uncover the beauty and charm of this hidden gem on your next visit to Southeast Asia.