A two and a half hour drive from Siem Reap (in the dry season; much longer during monsoon), delightful Battambang is Cambodia's second largest city, although it feels like a big country town. While a day trip doesn't do this sleepy riverside city justice, for those on a tight schedule, it's worth a short visit if the alternative is no visit at all. Hire a driver and car from a Siem Reap travel agent and leave at the crack of dawn.
Once in Battambang, the centre of Cambodia's most fertile agricultural region, have a tuk tuk driver take you for a trundle into the countryside to see why Battambang province is considered to be Cambodia's rice bowl. Visit artisanal workshops to watch everything from incense to cottom kramas being made, scramble a couple of Khmer Empire temple ruins, and taste Cambodian wine. Back in town, visit the lively local markets, snack on street food, and follow lunch at excellent hospitality training restaurant, Jaan Bai, with Cambodia's best coffee at nearby Kinyei cafe.
Hire a bike from Battambang Bike, do a behind the scenes tour of the performing arts school (where Siem Reap's Phare circus artists learnt their skills), visit some art galleries, or simply stroll around the heart of the city admiring the colonial edifices, charming Chinese shophouses, and glittering Buddhist pagodas that dot the centre. Round off the day with an exhilarating ride through the rice paddies on the Bamboo Train before starting back to Siem Reap.