One day in Battambang, Cambodia, is most definitely not enough time, but that’s all many visitors with the Angkor temples on their mind schedule for this riverside city. Do our one day in Battambang itinerary, visiting the markets, pagodas and villages, and you might find yourself wanting to extend your stay.
As with Siem Reap – which visitors typically only allocate two days for when you need at least a week – one day in Battambang is nowhere near enough time to discover Cambodia’s second city (we spend three days there on our Cambodia Culinary Tours and Travel and Food Writing and Photography Retreats), but 24 hours in Battambang is definitely better than nothing, and here’s how we think you should spend it.
One Day in Battambang Itinerary for a Perfect Day in Cambodia’s Rice Bowl
How to Get to Battambang
If you’ve only allowed one day in Battambang, don’t waste a second of it. Start out early from Siem Reap and have a driver take you there. A one-way trip should cost between US$30-40 depending on the quality of vehicle and whether the driver can speak English or not. Leave at 5am – you can sleep in the car – so you arrive in Battambang around 8am; 6am at the latest, so you reach your hotel by 9am.
Where to stay in Battambang
You have to stay overnight. Battambang is a three-hour drive from Siem Reap so a day-trip just doesn’t make sense. The most central hotel in Battambang and the best-located accommodation for this itinerary is colonial-inspired Bambu Hotel in the centre, however, the lively little city has some of Cambodia’s most charming small boutique hotels on its outskirts. We also love Maisons Wat Kor and Battambang Resort just out of town. You’ll find more accommodation in our guide to where to stay in Battambang.
How to Get Around Battambang
You’ll need to hire a good tuk tuk driver to be able to do our one day in Battambang itinerary. The best tuk tuk driver in Battambang is our Mr Ol (092 563 957), the lead driver of our Cambodia food tours and writing and photography retreats, and we also send our bespoke itinerary clients to him. Tell Mr Ol we sent you and if he’s not available, he’ll organise another excellent driver for you for your 24 hours in Battambang. Arrange for the driver to meet you at your hotel upon your arrival from Siem Reap so he can take you straight to breakfast.
Breakfast in Battambang
The best way to kick off 24 hours in Battambang is with breakfast. One of Cambodia’s most beloved breakfast dishes is kuy teav, a noodle soup typically served with pork, beef or chicken. In Battambang, the best kuy teav is in Wat Kor village, a hamlet on the outskirts of the city, where Mr Lee Mun and Mrs Te Lieng have been serving steaming bowls of kuy teav since 1995. We love their classic rendition topped with thin slices of juicy pork. We also like the addition of offal although we appreciate not everyone will. Whatever you order, don’t forget to add fresh herbs, chilli and lime juice, and dunk your youtiao (Chinese doughnuts) into the soup.
Early Morning in Battambang
There are few better ways to start your one day in Battambang than with a morning at the markets. Cambodia’s most fertile and agriculturally rich region, Battambang province is best-known for growing the country’s finest produce, which is why it’s called Cambodia’s rice bowl or bread basket. After breakfast, have you tuk tuk driver take you to our favourite market, lively Phsar Boeung Choeuk, which is a distribution point for suppliers, as much as a market where locals shop and eat, which means there’s lots of activity. If you’re up for more, Phsar Naht market is also fun to explore, although we prefer visiting in the evening when the interior is closed but the evening stalls around the perimeter sell everything from fresh tropical fruits to succulent rotisserie chickens.
Mid-morning in Battambang
Of your 24 hours in Battambang we guarantee that the best will be spent on a 3-4 hour tuk tuk trundle out to the villages around Battambang. Most hotels can arrange a tour of cottage industries that take in all sorts of artisanal production, from incense making and woodcarving to a visit to the prahok market and rice paper maker. Over the years we’ve worked with our drivers, guides and local families to develop a more immersive, food-focused version of this tour concentrating on the culinary activities, and adding our own hands-on experiences with artisanal producers, from makers of traditional dessert to rice noodles, from fruit farmers to mushroom growers. Let us know if you’d like to do this.
The village tours can also include stops at a few Khmer Empire era archaeological sites without the crowds, such as 11th century Phnom Banan, around 20 kilometres out of town, where you can climb 358 steps to see towers with Buddha statues wrapped in mandarin robes. Make sure to ask your driver to take the riverside road and stop at the suspension bridges en route for wonderful river views. Alternatively, you can drive in the opposite direction towards dilapidated Ek Phnom temple, which the Khmer Rouge tried to destroy, and the enormous Buddha statue near the site’s entrance. There are many fascinating stops to make along the way.
Lunch in Battambang
If you only have one day in Battambang, then lunch is a no-brainer. For us, lunch in Battambang means handmade dumplings and handpulled noodles at Lan Chov Khorko Miteanh, also known as Chinese Noodle (#145, Street 2), pictured above. This basic eatery is home to the most surprising of noodle masters, who makes tasty handmade Chinese dumplings of minced pork and greens, along with silky, stretchy, hand-pulled noodles, dressed in dirty singlets, baggy low-slung shorts, and flip-flops. Trust us on this one. (But do see our guide to eating and drinking in Battambang for more recommendations, as well as our tips to eating safely in Cambodia.)
Coffee in Battambang
You can’t spend one day in Battambang without having a coffee at Café Kinyei, an inspiring social enterprise business operated by the Feel Good Coffee Company, which provides training and employment for young locals. Located in a restored French-Chinese shop-house on Street 1½ in the centre of the old town, the buzzy little café is generally busy with expats and locals. Don’t even think about ordering anything but the award-winning Cambodian Cappuccino with pineapple syrup, palm sugar and frothy coconut milk.
Afternoon in Battambang
Spend your only afternoon of your one day in Battambang exploring the city’s historic centre, which boasts cute boutiques, galleries, cafés, and bars, as well as some 800 heritage buildings. Start with the heritage sights, from atmospheric Chinese shop-houses to antique pagodas, many of which are decorated with colourful bas reliefs and have interiors illustrated with faded murals. One of our favourites is the gilded Wat Pippitharam, also called Wat Peapahd, just one block north of Art Deco Phsar Nath (Old Market), which is also home to a monastery and French colonial-style buildings. We also like Wat Damreay Sar (‘White Elephant’), which has bizarre statues of monkey gods, elephants and other creatures representing scenes from the Reamker, the Khmer version of the ancient Hindu Ramayana. At Wat Bovil there are wooden carvings on the old vihear while Wat Kandal boasts fascinating paintings and an Angkor Wat replica hidden out back. See our guides to the arts and architecture in Battambang and things to do in Battambang for more ideas.
Happy Hour or a Circus Show in Battambang
The city’s best gin and tonics can be sipped at Battambang’s best happy hour at the alfresco bar at Bambu (see below), where the stools fill with visitors and locals, including long-term expats with enthralling stories. Convivial owner Pat can generally be found perched on a stool greeting guests, sharing stories, and shouting the occasional drink.
Alternatively, then make a beeline for Phare Ponleu Selpak, the performing arts school in Battambang, which is home to a circus school. This is where the artists from the Phare Cambodian Circus (AKA the Siem Reap Circus) trained. Note that there are no animals, just incredibly talented young Cambodian performers.
Dinner in Battambang
A perfect one day in Battambang itinerary wouldn’t be complete without dinner at Jaan Bai (Street 2), which means ‘rice bowl’ in Khmer, a hospitality training restaurant started by Cambodia Children’s Trust with the support of chef David Thompson. Located in a stylish shop-house, this superb restaurant features local art on the walls, murals by Battambang artists on the exterior, and an outdoor eating/drinking area furnished with wooden pallets and astro turf.
Cocktails in Battambang
There’s no better way to end your one day in Battambang than with a final cocktail in the old town. Bric-a-Brac’s Libations Bar (Street 2) pops up on the pavement every evening outside this delightful B&B cum gift shop. There are good wines by the glass, along with cheese and charcuterie plates, but I have a soft spot for their negroni with Battambang orange peel.
Staying longer than one day in Battambang? Browse all our Battambang stories.
Planning a trip to Cambodia? Lara offers bespoke itineraries, including themed trips, such as Savour Siem Reap. More details on our Siem Reap Retreats and Tours site. We also introduce travellers to Cambodian cuisine and culture on our 8-10 day small group Culinary Tours and Food and Travel writing and Photography Retreats which, in conjunction with our Cambodian travel partners and local guides, we host throughout the year as scheduled small group and private tours.
Do you live in Battambang or have you spent 24 hours in Battambang? We’d love to hear what your idea of a perfect one day in Battambang itinerary is. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.