Sitting on the Sangke River just southwest of the Tonle Sap Lake, Battambang is at the heart of Cambodia’s ‘rice bowl’, and even though it is one of the country’s largest towns it still has a fairly lightly touristed, provincial atmosphere. Much of the architecture is colonial-era with traditional shop houses lining quaint narrow lanes. There are plenty of hotels and a selection of restaurants in town these days. And a pleasant little walking district has taken shape in the old colonial blocks just south of the market -restaurants, cafes, a few shops, galleries and bars.
As you leave the town by road, the scenery quickly becomes one of villages and rice paddies, offering an excellent opportunity to see a bit of rural Cambodia. The nearby countryside harbors several picturesque old pagodas, Angkorian era ruins, caves, mountains and waterfalls.
TO/FROM SIEM REAP
Boat: The daily ferry between Battambang and Siem Reap plies a picturesque, 6-8 hours journey across the Tonle Sap and along the Sangke River, passing through some beautiful natural areas and past little villages. The trip is best in the wet season when the river is high. During the late dry season it can take considerably longer. The ferry departs in both directions at 7:00AM, $20 per person. The boats do not meet international safety standards.
In Battambang the ferry dock is at the north end of town just off National Route #5 and in Siem Reap the ferry dock is at Chong Khneas, 15 km south of town.
Road (National Routes #6 and #5. via Sisophon): The road from Battambang to Siem Reap around the west side of the lake is in very good condition.
Bus: At least four bus companies run two or three daily a/c buses, most leaving in the morning. Buy tickets at the bus company office or book from www.bousra.com.
Taxi: A private taxi costs $40.
TO/FROM PHNOM PENH
Bus: Several bus companies run multiple daily buses between Phnom Penh to Battambang. First bus departs at 07:00 AM and the last at 03:00 PM. Fare about $10. The trip takes 5 hours (291 km, National Road 5). In Battambang, buses depart from the various transportation company offices (See the website www.bousra.com).
Private taxi is $45, shared taxi $6 per person and takes 4 hours. Prices for shared local transport are very nominal, but are also crowded and uncomfortable. Buy more than one place for the extra leg room.