Banging around Battambang Cambodia

Cambodia is becoming quite a popular tourist destination, primarily because of the Angkor Wat temple complex near the town of Siem Reap.

Battambang is Cambodia’s second largest city, and it is only just being discovered, primarily because it became the home of the Khmer Rouge following this repressive and murderous regime’s fall from power.

These days the Khmer Rouge is gone and Battambang is opening up to visitors.

The name Battambang literally means “loss of stick” referring to a legend of the Preah Bat Dambang Kranhoung (Kranhoung Stick King).  You can see a large statue of the stick king on the Phnom Penh road.

In the earlier history Battambang flip-flopped back and forth between Thailand (called Siam before their 20th-century renaming) and Cambodia. It’s been a part of Thailand most of the time since the 15th century, with Cambodia regaining control (more specifically due the French) in 1907. The Thais grabbed it again, with Japanese assistance, in 1941 and kept the region in their camp until 1947.

Getting to Battambang from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is relatively easy these days as they are connected by sealed roads.  During the wet season it is possible to travel between Battambang and Siem Reap by boat.  It is an interesting trip as the boat passes by many floating villages and the giant cantilevered fishing nets, of which there are many.

As for sightseeing around Battambang, there are a number of Angkor-era temples, or the remains of those temples to see.  One advantage of visiting this area is that is doesn’t get anywhere near as crowded as Angkor Wat, which gives you the opportunity to visit the nearby temples without the crowds tramping around with you.

Some of the temples in the local area include:    

Wat Banan, is one of the mini-Angkor wats. A rather impressive flight of stairs lead up to a dilapidated Angkor-style temple which is still in use as a Buddhist shrine.  Also worth visiting is Wat Baydamram, a temple where hundreds of fruit bats live in trees under the protection of the Buddhist monks.  Wat Ek Phnom, another Angkor-type temple ruin, about 15km north west of Battambang. The road runs along lovely small rivers flanked by trees and small villages making it a generally nice area. Approaching Wat Ek Phnom, you suddenly encounter a giant Buddha statue in the Wat. The grounds of the Wat also have an Angkorian era temple which is in relatively good shape and with some interesting carvings.

Wat Tahm-rai-saw (White Elephant Pagoda), Battambang is situated in the city centre area. This famous temple is known for its elaborate architectural structure. The best time to visit the White Elephant Pagoda is during the time of Khmer New Year festival. It is during this time that the temple and the adjacent streets are particularly decorated with various colorful accessories making it more beautiful. You are able to participate in this important festival, as well as enjoy the gorgeous artistic sculptures and brilliant architectural designs.

Another thing to do in Battambang is to ride the Bamboo Train, which is a large bamboo platform that has been attached to a carriage chassis and powered by a go kart engine.  It’s not really an authentic railway, but it is an interesting ride.

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