WHY YOU SHOULD GIVE BATTAMBANG A CHANCE
For many travelers, some places are just words on a map for most travelers; however those willing to try something new are often surprised to uncover amazing cities, people and cultures. This describes Cambodia’s beautiful Battambang, a surprisingly large city that is still clinging onto its rural ambience. After a personal recommendation from a fellow traveler, seconded by a good friend having spent an amazing month there, we were convinced we had to try it on for size.
Boarding a godawful local bus from Sihanoukville we had embarked on the worst journey of our lives. We endured a 2.5 hour wait in Phnom Penh, followed by an excruciating 8 hour bus trip, stopping every 15 minutes to pick up more passengers, with far too many breaks. By the end of the 16 hour journey we were at each other’s throats and were at the point of exhaustion and tears.
Afraid that our hostel room had been given away, or worse still, finding there was no one at reception, we walked into Here Be Dragons covered in bus filth, and fear. Upon a friendly welcome from a lovely Scottish man and the relief of our room being ready and waiting for us, we were filled with happiness. Downing a beer, we collapset into bed sweet dreams soon followed.
Here be Dragons is a guest house worth checking out, if not for it’s well priced rooms then at least for the ambience and the staff. Our insider source did a stint working at Dragons, so we had it on good authority it would be good stay. Extending our stay twice, you could say she was dead right. For $10 a night we scored a basic but spotlessly clean double room with en-suite and a balcony, a real steal in our eyes. While the bed was rather firm and the room got a bit warm on really hot days, it was pretty much perfect. You can chill and watch TV on the rooftop, participate in some yoga or get yourself some new ink. With a decent restaurant, meals are easy and you can find food for every budget. Well worth checking out is the Pub Trivia Quiz night. It gave us plenty of laughs, embarrassment for not knowing nearly enough and a new set of friends. The Sunday BBQ was insanely good value and the ribs resembled dinosaur bones!
If you can’t stay the night at least make it down for drinks or to take part in the quiz.
Battambang has a lot to offer if you’re looking for something a bit different to the usual tourist traps, but don’t worry there is still quite a few activities if you just want to see the sights. The bamboo train, The Killing Caves and The Bat Caves are the three main sites, usually making up a day’s itinerary. A Tuk Tuk will cost between $12-$20 depending on the season and how many people are in your group. You can fit 4 normal sized people comfortably in a Tuk Tuk which makes it a bargain for 5 hours of transportation. There are also plenty of temples to explore if you’re keen on getting a bit deeper into the local history.
With a surprisingly solid expat community Battambang has a few quirky perks that the other Cambodian cities and towns don’t. There is something to do nearly every night and an amazing locally produced magazine called The Bong (Cambodians pronounce it Battambong) which lets you know what’s happening for the week including various music gigs, bar nights and yoga classes. If you’re keen to be part of it, grab a copy at Here Be Dragons or at Lotus.
Don’t let Battambang be a town you bypass, enjoy it for a few days and experience some great Cambodian hospitality.