Population: 1 milion
Vibe: Battambang manages to avoid an overly touristy vibe, and remains a perfect place to experience a more local side of life in Cambodia.
Must Do: Take a ride on a bamboo train along a disused railway track!
Known for: Being the leading rice-producing area in Cambodia. Not known for: being the second biggest city in Cambodia. Yep - believe it or not, Siem Reap isn’t the second biggest city after Phnom Penh - it’s Battambang!
Top things to see and do in Battambang
There are quite a few ancient temples nearby, as well as historical sites from the Khmer Rouge era. Start your day exploring Wat Banan (also known as the mini-Angkor Wat) and Phnom Sampeu, which is a former killing cave network for the Khmer Rouge, now home to a moving memorial monument.
Sunset is the best time to visit The Bat Cave, where you can see - no, not Bruce Wayne - hundreds of fruit bats flying out in an impressive stream for almost an hour.
Battambang Homestay Experience
On the Stray tour, you’ll also get a chance to experience a rural Cambodian lifestyle in our homestay, which takes place 20kms from Battambang.
Arriving in Battambang we'll do a a brief drive-through tour of the city before we head out to the local must-do attraction known as ‘the Bamboo train’. This unique experience is included for all Stray passengers. A bamboo train is essentially a basic bamboo platform floor with a couple of 'bump-absorbing' cushions, on two axles, powered by an engine similar to a lawn-mower engine.
In a former life the track was used to connect Thailand with Phnom Penh. Now the track is now decommissioned so there's no risk of trains coming towards you. After an exhilarating 15mins aboard the "VIP 2016" you'll arrive in the small village of O Sra Lav. Here the local people have set up stalls selling cold drinks and snacks.
You'll head through the railway-side village and to an old brickworks factory and see the brick making process. Bricks are the other the main source of income other than rice here.
After that we'll head to the homestay village. You’ll have the opportunity to interact with local villages to learn about their community life, including their festivals, farming practices and educational practices. This is one of the most rewarding parts of our tour, as you get to visit places that other groups won’t go to, and talk with villagers directly.
After an afternoon exploring the village you'll have an authentic, traditional Cambodian meal with your homestay family where you'll try local foods, such as Spring Rolls, and Amok (fish curry). After the meal, you'll have the opportunity to try the local evening drink – home brew whiskey, with snake blood. Definitely an acquired taste, and by no means compulsory!
You can choose whether you'd like to take a western style warm shower, or a traditional bucket shower before we all hit the sack in a large upstairs room. Each comfortable bed has a mosquito net over it and is underneath a fan. Sleep well! We'll have breakfast with our hosts before we leave early the next morning.
Get to Battambang!
Find Cambodia Passes
Guest writer, Clint Maskell tells us all about eating a field rat, riding the bamboo train and meeting the locals during his Battambang homestay experience.