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 in the charming riverside city that is Cambodia’s rice bowl on our Cambodia Culinary Tours and Travel and Food Writing and Photography Retreats. (By the way, we still have a few spots left on our late 2019 trips.)
But 24 hours in Battambang is definitely better than nothing, giving you a taste of this laidback regional city that is still under the radar of most travellers to Cambodia. If you like it so much you extend your stay, click through for our Weekend in Battambang itinerary. Until then, here’s how we suggest you should spend your one day in Battambang.
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, as Battambang is a three-hour drive from Siem Reap so a day-trip just doesn’t make sense. One of the best located hotels in Battambang for this itinerary is colonial-inspired Bambu Hotel which has airy high-ceiling rooms with balconies in the main building overlooking a stunning swimming pool, and lodgings in traditional-style wooden houses beyond the pool. Bric-a-Brac is an atmospheric B&B with idiosyncratically decorated rooms slap-bang in the colonial heart of town if you don’t need a pool. The laidback little city has two more intimate boutique hotels with swimming pools in Wat Kor village on Battambang’s outskirts: Maisons Wat Kor has spacious rooms in two-storey traditional-style timber houses and a swimming pool in the lush tropical gardens, while Battambang Resort, set amidst the rice fields has contemporary rooms. You’ll find reviews for these hotels and 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, and sometimes duck. Some of the best kuy teav in Battambang is to be found 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.
Morning in Battambang
Of your 24 hours in Battambang we guarantee that the best 3-4 hours will be spent on a morning tuk tuk trundle through the leafy, laidback villages around Battambang. Most hotels can arrange a tour of cottage industries that take in all sorts of artisanal production, from incense making to woodcarving and perhaps a visit to the prahok market and A 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 as we can arrange Battambang’s best guide, Sokin Nou, to take you.
There are many fascinating stops you can add to your village excursions, such as picturesque Buddhist pagodas in frangipani-filled grounds, including Battambang’s oldest, which served as a prison during the tragic Khmer Rouge genocide in the late 1970s. There’s a monument to the period filled with skulls and bones, with a series of graphic bas-reliefs at the base depicting torture and killings, as well as the musty, dimly-lit ‘torture house’ which can be visited. Entry is free but do make a donation.
Make sure your driver takes you to the dilapidated Ek Phnom, a ruinous Khmer Empire era temple on a hillock which the Khmer Rouge attempted to destroy. There’s an enormous Buddha statue near the site’s entrance.
Lunch in Battambang
If you only have one day in Battambang, then lunch is a no-brainer. For us, lunch in Battambang means dumplings and noodles at Lan Chov Khorko Miteanh, also known as Chinese Noodle Guy (#145, Street 2), pictured above. This simple 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 the 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, such as the grand former Lord Governor’s mansion, which is now a municipal museum with small displays of musical instruments and vintage household items, then amble the grid of narrow streets lined with atmospheric Chinese shop-houses, and lastly, hire a tuk tuk driver to take you to visit some of the pagodas dotted around town, many of which are decorated with colourful bas reliefs and boast interiors illustrated with faded murals. They look wonderful in the late afternoon night.
One of our favourite pagodas 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.
Sundowners in Battambang
There are few better ways to end your one day in Battambang than with a final cocktail in the old town. Owned by Australian textiles expert, weaver and artist Morrison Polkinghorne and his American cookbook writer partner Robert Carmack, Bric-a-Brac’s Libations Bar on Street 2 pops up on the pavement every evening outside their delightful B&B. Robert potters about the kitchen, spooning out his homemade pâtés and recommending wines, while Morrison can often be found on his wooden loom or making lotus art in the gift shop. Pull up a whicker chair and settle in for a while. Along with the friendly, talented staff, they’ll keep you entertained for hours, explaining some of the fascinating objects in their fab store or sharing tales from their travels. 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.
Evening in Battambang
If you’re in Battambang on a Saturday, Monday or Thursday evenings, book tickets online or through your hotel to see a circus show at Phare Ponleu Selpak, Battambang’s brilliant performing arts school, which is home to a circus school. Phare Ponleu Selpak, which means ‘brightness of the arts’, was established by a group of Cambodians who met in an art class in a refugee camp on the Thai border in the post-Khmer Rouge period. This is where the skilled performers from the Phare Cambodian Circus (AKA the Siem Reap Circus) trained. Note that this is circus arts, so there are no animals, just incredibly talented young Cambodian performers. Tickets cost US$14 for adults and US$7 for children. Shows start at 7pm, but plan to arrive at 6.30pm at the latest so you can visit the art gallery, have a drink at the cafe, and shop the boutique that sells art work and other cool products made by the students. Guided tours (US$5) of the campus are also offered from Monday through Friday at 9am, 10am, 2.30pm, and 3.30pm, and include a stroll around the leafy grounds with a guide to see the music students practicing beneath shady trees and the circus students learning new tricks or rehearsing. You’ll also visit the art gallery and watch an animation film made by the students. (Click through to any of the links in this paragraph to learn more about the history of the circus and what to expect from shows.)
Dinner in Battambang
One of the few restaurants in Battambang still serving dinner after the circus finishes is La Pizza (59 Street 159), a casual Italian restaurant owned by a French couple in a splendid, yellow, two-storey French colonial villa located on the riverside. The specialty, obviously, is pizza, made in a wood-fired oven. We recommend The Kep with Cambodian seafood and Kampot peppers, the Spicy Italian with tomato paste, mozzarella, Italian sausage, and jalapeno peppers, and the Occitan with mozzarella, goat cheese, honey, walnuts, spinach and red Spanish onion. Complimentary crostini with homemade olive tapenade is offered while you peruse the menu and there are affordable bottles of wine, cold Cambodian beers, and a concise dessert menu that includes a fine creme brûlée. There’s seating in the courtyard garden but we love to soak up the colonial ambiance inside. Sometimes La Pizza closes early or exceptionally if there’s a wedding in the vicinity, so best call (096 360 7417) and book a table and let them know you’re heading there after the circus so they wait open for you.
Staying longer than one day in Battambang? Browse all our Battambang stories.
Planning a trip to Cambodia? Lara can craft a bespoke itinerary to Battambang, including themed trips, such as Savour Siem Reap. More details on our 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.