A weekend in Battambang, Cambodia, is just enough time for this laidback riverside city. Of course three days is perfect, however, 48 hours in Battambang is far better than twenty four. Our two day Battambang itinerary will ensure you make the most of your time there.
We recommend you spend a weekend in Battambang, Cambodia’s northern city of Battambang because weekends in Siem Reap are busy year-round, even in Siem Reap’s long low season, and are not ideal if you want to visit Angkor Wat without the crowds.
Save your Angkor temple excursions for weekdays instead when the Khmer Empire archaeological sites are less busy and do a road trip through Northern Cambodia’s rice fields and market towns for a weekend in Battambang, when the laidback riverside city will be at its liveliest.
If you’re making your way to Siem Reap from Bangkok, Battambang makes a brilliant first stop to spend a few days unwinding after the big city chaos of Thailand’s capital and before a busy time in Temple Town trundling between Angkor Archaeological Park and Siem Reap’s restaurants, cafes and bars.
If you’re an expat in Siem Reap, a weekend in Battambang is pure bliss if for no other reason than the opportunity it affords to escape the tourist hoards in high season and to savour the lush green countryside in the monsoonal low season.
And while I don’t believe that 48 hours in Battambang is sufficient (we spend three days in Battambang on our Cambodia Culinary Tours and Travel and Food Writing and Photography Retreats, and note that we still have a few spots left on our late 2019 trips), a weekend in Battambang will provide just enough time to get a taste of this laidback regional city and its surrounding villages, markets, pagodas, and museums, and engage with its friendly residents.
Weekend in Battambang Itinerary 48 Hours in Cambodia’s Laidback Riverside City
Here’s how we recommend you spend a weekend in Battambang although you could easily follow this 2-day Battambang itinerary mid-week as well.
Where to Stay on Your Weekend in Battambang
Check into one of our recommended places to stay in Battambang. We love colonial-inspired Bambu Hotel in the centre for its charming rooms, swimming pool, warm service, a good on-site restaurant, and buzzy bar. Book one of the rooms in the main building overlooking the pool. Bric-a-Brac is an atmospheric B&B in the heart of the historic quarter of Battambang with painstakingly decorated rooms furnished with antiques and vintage pieces, and has a gorgeous gift shop, friendly staff, and an alfresco bar that pops up in time for sunset drinks and snacks. If you don’t mind staying in a sleepy village on the edge of Battambang, then there are two more boutique hotels with swimming pools on the outskirts of the city: Maisons Wat Kor has rooms with polished floorboards and high ceilings set in traditional-style wooden houses while nearby Battambang Resort, surrounded by rice fields, has sleek contemporary rooms, a decent on-site restaurant, and a small swimming pool.
How to Get Around Battambang
A reliable and knowledgeable Battambang tuk tuk driver is a must. Get in touch with one of the best tuk tuk drivers in Battambang, our Mr Ol (092 563 957), who we use every time we spend a weekend in Battambang and who also acts as the lead driver when we take our participants doing our Cambodia Culinary Tours and our Food and Travel Writing and Photography Retreats to Battambang. Tell Mr Ol we recommended you contact him and he’ll take extra good care of you. If he’s not available, he’ll organise another excellent driver for you for your 48 hours in Battambang. Ask the driver to meet you at your Battambang hotel upon your arrival from Siem Reap so you can discuss this itinerary with him in advance to make the most of your stay in Battambang.
Day One in Battambang – How to Spend Your First 24 Hours in Battambang
Click through to our One Day in Battambang itinerary and follow that for your first 24 hours in Battambang and then return here for a plan for the second day of your weekend in Battambang.
Day Two in Battambang – How to Spend the New 24 Hours in Battambang
Here’s how we recommend you spend the second day of your weekend in Battambang.
Breakfast in Battambang
Slurp the best duck soup in Battambang, if not Cambodia, with the locals at family-owned Mi Kiev Tia Kwai on Street 135 in Kamakor village, now an inner suburb of Battambang. It’s just one block from the ABA bank, the court house and Battambang’s sleepy shopping mall. Our tuk tuk driver, Mr Ol (see above) knows where it is as he was the one who introduced us to this busy eatery spread across two shophouses. The family wakes in the wee hours of the morning to put the broth on to simmer and roast the meaty ducks, but while they are open until noon, the duck soup is so popular that it usually sells out by 9.30am. Order the duck soup with wantons. While I’m quite content with the soup’s clear subtly spiced broth, generous slices of tender duck, few vegetables, and delicious house-made wantons, you’ll notice locals reaching for the array of condiments on the table. I recommend taking a slurp first.
Morning in Battambang
There are few better ways to start the second day of your weekend 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. This means there’s always lots of activity. If you’re up for more, Phsar Naht market in the heart of town is also fun to explore. Great buys include batik sarongs, enamel trays and knock-off shoes. It’s also worth popping back to the market in the early evening when the interior is closed but the evening stalls around the perimeter sell everything from fresh tropical fruits to succulent rotisserie chickens.
Coffee and Art in Battambang
An emerging art destination, a weekend in Battambang has to include a gallery or two. Just around the corner from Bambu Hotel (see below), Romcheik 5 Art Space is named after the Battambang neighbourhood where it was first established in 2012, with the help of a donor, by four young local artists, Hak Bor, Seyha Hour, Chanpeh Nget, and Chankrim Mil. Graduates of Battambang’s Phare Ponleu Selpak visual arts school, the artists share backgrounds that include abandonment by their parents, hard labour in Thailand where they were forced to work as children, exile, loneliness, and trauma. Their work has been shown in group and solo exhibitions in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the USA. The gallery, which they call a ‘Countryside Art Museum’, has been expanded and a new building added over the years, so that it now has three levels, including a permanent collection of almost 200 artworks, and space for temporary exhibits of Cambodian contemporary artists. There is also has a lovely rooftop cafe with an edible garden and lovely views of the tropical surrounds and pagoda roofs, where you can grab a coffee. Unusual for Cambodia, the gallery charges a US$5 entry fee which goes towards the support of an artist in residence programme, art materials and maintenance.
Lunch in Battambang
Head around the corner to breezy Russey Restaurant by the pool at colonial-style Bambu Hotel, where you’ll find generous portions of Cambodian specialties, along with some Thai favourites and Western comfort food if you’re already having cravings or are travelling with kids. We recommend the fresh spring rolls, the salt and pepper calamari, and the Cambodian curry, which should suffice for lunch for two. If you’re hungry or there are more of you, also order the grilled beef and chicken skewers and the Pad Khmer, a Cambodian take on Thailand’s Pad Thai. There are also freshly squeezed juices, cold beers, and good wines by the glass. See our guide to eating and drinking in Battambang for more ideas.
Afternoon in Battambang
If you enjoyed discovering the villages on your first morning in Battambang then engage your tuk tuk driver for another village tour and spend your last afternoon in Battambang trundling through the villages on the way to Phnom Banan or Banan Mountain, around 20 kilometres out of town. Ask your driver to take the quiet riverside road for part of the way there and you’ll pass through diminutive villages with traditional wooden houses and fruit orchards. You can stop at river bends to photograph farmers tending to crops on the shores and cross suspension bridges built by the French for wonderful river views.
One fascinating stop along the way is the sleepy Muslim fishing village, where you’ll find a mosque and shy but friendly residents selling Cambodian snacks, such as fish paste grilled in banana leaves. Some enterprising villagers are starting to encourage tourism to provide additional income to the community, and one activity they’ve launched is a slow cruise on the Sangker River on a traditional wooden fishing boat. You’ll see the sign promoting the activity near the goat pen. If not, ask the villagers to point you in the right direction.
Once on the other side of the river, which can be reached by one of the old suspension bridges, which tuk tuks and motorbikes can carefully cross, call into the Cambodia Peace Museum, launched in October 2018 by the Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies (CPCS). Spread across a handful of former school buildings, the museum celebrates the resilience of Cambodians as it tells the history of war and peace in Cambodia, starting with the civil war in the 1970s that continued through the 1990s. There is an uplifting focus on the country’s peace-building and reconciliation efforts rather than war itself, with exhibits covering the different approaches to halting the conflict, from the peace process that resulted in the signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords to the efforts led by Cambodian civil society, former combatants, different faith groups, and the government. While you can wander around yourself, if your knowledge of the subject is limited, you might find a guided tour more engaging.
Ten minutes down the road is Banan Winery or Prasat Phnom Banan Winery, named after nearby Banan temple. For wine enthusiasts, Southeast Asian wineries with their grape vineyards fringed by banana plantations and palm trees are a must-visit for the novelty factor more than anything, and Banan Winery is no exception. Established in 1999, when self-taught wine-makers Leng Chan Tol and husband Chan Thai Chhoung planted their first vines which were brought from France, the couple and their sons now produce 10,000 bottles a year of Red Wine, a Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, which you can sample – along with their Phnom Banon Brandy, ginger juice and grape juice. A warning: as the family says, the wine is not to foreign tastes.
Once you arrive at Phnom Banan, you’ll find an archaeological site without the crowds of Angkor. Climb the 358 steps to see several handsome 11th century brick towers, one which contains Buddha statues wrapped in mandarin robes. Nearby, you can ride the new bamboo train, popular with Cambodians although foreign tourists and expats still seem to prefer the more exhilarating ride through the rice fields on the old ‘train’, which is running again on the new rail line that a proper train service now operates on.
Sundowners in Battambang
Some of the city’s best gin and tonics can be sipped at one of Battambang’s best happy hours at the alfresco bar at Bambu Hotel, 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. Or if you don’t feel like trundling back to Bambu, you could always return to Libations Bar again.
Dinner in Battambang
A perfect weekend in Battambang itinerary wouldn’t be complete without dinner at Jaan Bai (on Street 2), which means ‘rice bowl’ in Khmer. The social enterprise, hospitality training restaurant was started by Cambodia Children’s Trust with the support of Australian chef David Thompson, and is now ran in cooperation with the guys behind the Feel Good Coffee Company, who helped make neighbouring Kinyei Cafe a success. Located in a stylish shop-house, the buzzy 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. The menu includes pan-Asian appetisers, such as salt and pepper calamari with basil and chilli, local corn fritters with a chilli ginger caramel dip and pork belly bao with slaw, peanuts and five spice, while mains include Cambodian and Thai classics, such as Kampot pepper prawns with chilli jam, and banana flower chicken with lemongrass, garlic, galangal, and kaffir lime. We also highly recommend Christine Manfield’s pork and crab congee. Christine cooked the heavenly rice porridge at a fundraiser dinner at Jaan Bai a couple of years ago and it was so popular they added it to the menu.
Cocktails in Battambang
Up for a final drink to celebrate a weekend in Battambang well spent? Then stroll a little way down Street 2 to beautifully decorated Miss Wong, the Battambang sister to Siem Reap’s finest cocktail bar. Owned by New Zealander Dean Williams, a former radio journo turned kombucha producer, and set in a painstakingly restored Chinese shophouse, the bar is one of Cambodia’s most atmospheric, with rattan chairs, lacquered screens and an intimate interior courtyard. The cocktails are the big draw, mixed with house-made tonics, infusions and small batch spirits that you’re unlikely to sip elsewhere in Battambang. If you like your cocktail strong, order a heady rose and lemongrass martini. For something lighter and refreshing, try the lemongrass collins. There are also craft beers and good wines by the glass, along with Chinese bites such as dim sum, pork buns and duck pancakes if you’re still peckish.
Staying longer than a weekend in Battambang? Browse all our Battambang stories.
Planning a trip to Cambodia? Lara can craft a bespoke itinerary to Battambang. 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 both scheduled small group and private tours. We still have a few spots left on our late 2019 trips.
Do you live in Battambang or have you spent 24 hours in Battambang? We’d love to hear what your idea of a perfect weekend in Battambang is. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.