Battambang is where travelers go when they are templed out.
Cambodia’s second largest city offers some of South East Asia’s best preserved colonial architecture. The city was under Thai rule until 1904, and during that time the Thai government hired Italian expat architects to design many of the government buildings, so what looks European is not always French. More than 800 heritage buildings from the French protectorate can be found between Streets 1 and 3, including the vice-governor’s house, which combines French-colonial style with traditional Khmer design elements. (Download walking tours here.) The architecture is so impressive that the city is up for UNESCO World Heritage status. And if you’re really craving more temples, there are 1,000-year-old Khmer temples just minutes from town.
Battambang is equidistant from Bangkok and Phnom Penh by road—about five to seven hours, depending if you take private or public transport. But from Siem Reap it’s an easy two-hour ride. The city is also home to the country’s largest per capita residency for artists and visitors are often surprised to find quite good art galleries and shops as well as bustling coffee houses. Studio Art Battambang is a must-stop as is the shop Jewel in the Lotus, which showcases art, books, and jewelry sourced rom around Cambodia. In the fall of 2014, Robert Carmack, the founder of of the foodie trip company Globetrotting Gourmet, and textile expert Morrison Polkinghorne opened a small guesthouse in Battambang. Bric a Brac has just four rooms, each tastefully designed in a minimalist style. The duo offer cooking classes and textile workshops and will also have a room to showcase and sell local textiles. (Rooms from $95.)