This is on the coolest “out of the way” towns I have been to when traveling. Batambang (one of the many spellings) is a little town in western Cambodia.
It sits on one of the rivers that feeds the Tonle Sap lake where Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) is. So one way to get there is a river boat from Siem Reap. That is how I left Batambang, but I got there by riding in a pickup truck from the town of Poipet which sits on the Cambodia side of the Thailand/Cambodia border. This isn’t the funnest ride, but if you are looking for a bit of an “au naturale” experience you can check it out. After coming through immigration, there will surely be some locals looking to arrange your transportation if you let them.
Where To Stay
I can’t even remember what hotel I stayed in when I was there. When we arrived, there was a horde of locals that crowded around us giving us a sales pitch in whatever English they could speak. We took the first ones that seemed decent and we were off. The hotel was alright, but be forewarned, this wouldn’t even be a 1 star hotel by North American standards. Price was right though. I think it was about $3/night.
This is a town where you can’t book ahead anyways. At least not at the time, maybe with the increases in tourism they will cater a bit more to the non-backpacker crowd. Seriously, just show up and you will find a place easily.
Batambang – In Town
This was my first real experience in a 3rd world town. It was an eye opener. Keep in mind, you could still access the internet on a main street cafe, but it looked so run down and poor to me. I will always remember it.
One of the Main Streets in Batambang
Building We Could See From the Back of Our Hotel
I received an awesome day tour from a local guide. His name was Pou (pronounced pow) and my cousin had a guide named Jay. Our tour cost $5 and included transportation on their motorbike from around 9:30 in the morning until late afternoon. By far the best deal I have ever received.
The Killings Caves
You have all heard of the Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh. Well this is the Killing Caves. Located on one of the small mountains that stick out of the flat stretches of land they have, it is a somber experience. In the height of the Khmer Rouge, many Cambodians were murdered here by being thrown off a cliff down into these caves.
Small Mountain Where the Killing Caves Were
There is hindu/buddhist temple on the outskirts of Batambang as well. Considered to be one of the oldest in Cambodia. It is rather run down, but very interesting to see. Check out the number of steps you have to climb to see it though. You have an amazing view of the surround area at the top.
Temple Steps Outside of Batambang
Later hitched a ride back to town on a little railroad cart. It ran off a gasoline engine and slowly puttered its way back into town. This cost us $5, which was a bit of a rip-off as we had just done a tour for the whole day for the same price and we each had our own guide.
Leaving Batambang By Boat
Like I said above, I left Batambang by boat. It was about an 8 hour trip to Siem Reap, but it is another experience I will never forget. You wind up a very narrow river for about 4 hours and see many villages and people just existing along the river. About half way, you switch to a larger boat and continue on. Once your get onto the lake, you will pass by some floating villages before reaching shore. There are plenty of taxis and tuk-tuk’s ready to take you into Siem Reap.
Typical Floating House Along River
Children in a Boat