Best of Battambang

Battambang is dreamy. Awaken to sepia morning light pouring through your window, bringing with it hints of wood smoke and lemongrass. The closest thing to a traffic jam here is when women pedaling to work on old rusty bicycles stop for children splashing in puddles. Restaurants are lively at 6 p.m. and often shuttered by 10. The pace is languid and the options for travelers are truly one-of-a-kind. Make sure to grab a seat under the big top at the Phare Ponleu Circus and catch a ride on the bamboo norry train. Between the local culture and cuisine, volunteering and local interactions, it’s easy to fall in love with quiet, charming, old Battambang. All you really have to do is show up.

One of the top attractions just outside of sleepy Battambang is the bamboo norry train. These simple platforms outfitted with small motors were originally used to ferry people and goods between the distant villages. Today, the system is largely a tourist attraction, and a recommended one. Riding from one village to another will take about an hour. The trains operate on just one set of tracks, and when two trains meet going opposite directions, the drivers hop off, move one of the platforms and its wheels to the side of the track, so that the other may pass.
Street 2 in next to Psar Nat, Krong Battambang, Cambodia
Enjoy world-class cuisine for a good cause at the delicious, inviting Jaan Bai. This popular outpost, a Battambang lure for food-minded travelers, raises funds to support the Cambodian Children’s Trust and the kitchen and dining provide hands-on vocational training for local youth. The restaurant’s name translates to “rice bowl” in Khmer, but the menu ventures far beyond rice, showcasing authentic Thai, Cambodian, and Vietnamese staples, in small, shareable servings. The venture is the brainchild of several chefs and restaurateurs, including David Thompson of Bangkok‘s famous Ngam.
Wat Sampeou, a colorful temple on top of monolithic, 330-foot-tall Sampeau mountain, can be reached by climbing up 700 steps (or taking a less rigorous path). The temple and three natural caves nearby are filled with Buddhist shrines and statues. The caves also contain human remains, because the Khmer Rouge used the mountain caves as killing fields during the war.

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