Beautiful Battambang Province

There are many adventures beyond Pailin. Cambodia is an incredibly diverse and beautiful country so if you get a chance check some of the below out. Pailin makes a great starting point and perhaps is as some would agree the most historical region that shaped modern Cambodian society.

Until December 2008, when King Norodom Sihamoni signed a Royal Decree that changed it into a separate province, Pailin was a part of Battambang Province and they both still maintain strong connections. Whether you are coming to Pailin from Thailand, or heading to Pailin from Phnom Penh, Battambang is the next stop on your journey and both the province and town have plenty to do and see. Battambang town itself is the second largest in Cambodia, and has long been a hub for trade and commerce for Cambodia’s North East. It is situated along the picturesque river Sangke which flows from the Cardamom mountains down to the Tonle Sap Lake and forms the northwestern border of Battambang Province.

Founded in the 11th century by the Khmer empire, Battambang is Cambodia's second largest town and the hub of the north west connecting the region and the capital with Thailand. Briefly ruled by the Kingdom of Siam for the 19th century, there are many buildings such as the governors residence remaining from this era. Ceded to the French as part of Indochina at the beginning of the 20th century, many buildings, bridges and public works have remained from this era giving the town a characteristic charm.

Having been founded by the Khmer Empire over a thousand years ago Battambang has a long and interesting history. Its importance as a commercial town over the years has attracted many people and while its population is mostly ethnic Khmer, there is a significant amount of Lao, Vietnamese, Chinese and Cham populations in the province. Its brief annexation by Thailand in the 19th century and subsequent French colonization can still be seen in the many interesting buildings dating from these periods. Battambang province is famous for its rice and is nicknamed “The Rice Bowl of Cambodia”. It is also famous for the many famous and significant temples built here during the Angkorian period, such as Phnom Sampov and Ek Phnom. The province is also part of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve, and both the Tonle Sap lake area and mountainous jungle are home to many rare and endangered species.

Things to do in Battambang

Phnom Sampeau: At the summit of this fabled limestone outcrop, 12km southwest of Battambang along NH57 (towards Pailin), a complex of temples affords gorgeous views. Phnom Sampov is a limestone escarpment jutting out of the surrounding countryside 14km outside Battambang Town. The hill has been an important religious site for thousands of years. Many carvings can be found here as steps lead you to the temples on the summit which offer panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Caves are also found here. They are inhabited by thousands of bats which make an impressive site as they flock out at sundown.

Bamboo Train: Battambang’s bamboo train is one of the world’s all-time unique rail journeys. From O Dambong, 3.7km east of Battambang’s old French bridge (Wat Kor Bridge), the train bumps 7km southeast to O Sra Lav along warped, misaligned rails and vertiginous bridges left by the French. The journey takes 20 minutes each way, with a 20-minute stop at O Sra Lav in between.

Wat Kor Village: About 2km south of central Battambang, the village of Wat Kor is centred around a temple of the same name. It's a great place to wander, especially late in the afternoon when the opposite (east) bank of the Sangker River is back-lit in amber tones by the sinking sun. Picturesque bridges span the river, the spires of Wat Kor glow bright platinum and Khmer village life is on full display.

Phare Ponleu Selpak: Battambang's signature attraction is the internationally acclaimed circus of Phare Ponleu Selpak, a multi-arts centre for disadvantaged children.

Wat Banon: Wat Banon, like many Angkor era temples, is situated on top of a hill with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.  Over 300 steps line the way to the summit with 5 temples. According to inscriptions, it is built in 1057, in reign of Udayadithyavarman. The temples are relatively intact although many of the decorations and carving were looted or destroyed during the war.

Kamping Puoy Lake: The lake was a gigantic civil-engineering project build by the Khmer Rouge in order to to irrigate the countryside around Battambang. Tragically, the construction of the Kamping Puoy Reservoir resulted in ten thousand people's deaths. Located 25km outside Battambang, the lake is now a popular tourist destination for locals and visitors alike. The lake is teeming with fish and well known for an abundance of lotus plants.