Battambang is a peaceful and pleasant place and as a province acts as a vital gateway connecting Phnom Penh with northwest Cambodia and Thailand. The main parts of the city are situated close to the Sangker River that winds its way through the province.
Visitors to Battambang may enjoy visiting the following attractions.
Prek Toal Ecotourism
Prek Toal Ecotourism Site was established in 1999. Visitors can go on guided trips via the acclaimed Sam Veasna Center. Here bird guides and WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) rangers protect the birds and teach others about them. There are also paddle boat tours through the floating village available where you will spot crocodile and fish farms in addition to many floating buildings! It is also possible to stay overnight in the Environmental Research Station on the site.
Prek Toal is a protected eco-system regarded as the single most important breeding ground for globally threatened large waterbirds in South East Asia. It is located at the confluence of the Tonle Sap lake and the Sangker River, about halfway along between Siem Reap and Battambang.
The site is a bird watcher’s dream as every year from January to June the lake’s water level recedes and flocks of migratory storks, adjutants, pelicans, ibises, cormorants come to nest in the surrounding flooded forest.
Over 120 species of water and forest birds have been spotted here, among which are 15 endangered species such as the greater adjutant and the masked finfoot. There is also a community tourism project where you can learn about the lives of the people who lead an existence entirely on the water.
Hundreds of families live on the water here in houseboats built on bamboo rafts. The community is served by floating shops, barbers, petrol stations and in fact all the amenities of any village on land. The only buildings on stilts are the pagoda and the school. The main threat to the area previously was large-scale egg and chick collection by the local villages. However, since the introduction of the community tourism project and with the help of classes to teach the local people that economically the birds are worth more alive. This, in turn, has stopped at least 7 bird species from extinction.
Villagers are now employed in a whole range of different positions including rangers, project staff, boatmen, and guide. Aside from tourism, the economy of the village relies mainly on fish and you can witness the national Cambodian food prahoc (fermented fish paste) and tuk trey (fish sauce) being made.
Other sources of income from the water community include floating vegetable farms, water hyacinth gardens, and crocodile farming. Visiting Prek Toal is not just a wonderful experience but is also a socially responsible experience as and you will be witnessing, learning and contributing to the protection of the waterbird colonies and the well-being of the local communities.
Kamping Puoy Lake
Kamping Puoy Lake is a large lake located between two hills and is popular with locals at weekends enjoying the good views, picnics, swimming, and boating.
Kamping Puoy was originally built by victims of the Khmer Rouge who painstakingly hand built this huge eight-kilometre dam. Unfortunately, there is no monument here to mark this sad part of history although recently the dam is being used as an irrigation system again helping thousands of local farmers improve their crops.
If you like bird watching then there is the possibility to see many bird species, such as herons, egrets, pygmy cotton geese, whistling ducks, and lily trotters amongst many others.
Kamping Puoy is a reservoir located around 30km from the town of Battambang accessible by a newly built road. The trip is part of the attraction as it passes through some beautiful Cambodian countryside.
Once at the lake, you will find food and drink stalls. Also, you can rent a boat to take you out on the lake giving you an opportunity to witness the local people who live on the reservoir.
Battambang Provincial Museum
Battambang Provincial Museum houses a range of exotic relics giving you the opportunity to view a number of collections from different eras. The museum exhibits collections of old Khmer relics, musical instruments, pottery and art. Both pre-Angkorian and post-Angkorian artefacts make up the displays found in the museum.
Battambang Provincial Museum is not as well stocked with exhibits as its counterparts in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. However, it is home to some beautifully sculpted lintels and other intriguing artefacts. These artefacts come from all over Cambodia including local pieces from Phnom Banan and Sneng. Two particularly interesting pieces are the 13th-century statue of a Bodhisattva with a tattoo of a thousand Buddhas. Next door to the Museum is a small exhibition area that often has interesting displays featuring information on local agriculture and fishing practices and local legends.
The 11th-century Angkorian temple of Phnom Banan is located just over 20 kilometres south of Battambang and is perhaps the best-preserved examples in Battambang province. As you approach the area you will see the distinctive five towers pointing towards the sky, reminiscent of Angkor Wat.
Phnom Banan has been heavily looted but remains mostly in good condition and the views from the top are impressive in all directions.
It’s a rather steep climb from ground level up to the ruins. Luckily at the top, a few industrious drink sellers emerge, who will also be happy to show you around the temple and then the caves below on the left (when looking at the ruins from the stairs). These are well worth exploring, though note the cave entrance is almost at the base of the hill, so be sure you are finished with the ruins before you agree to go down.
At the base of the mountain, there is a steep staircase flanked by twisting nagas. After climbing the 350 or so steps you are rewarded with a wonderful and peaceful setting. The temple was built by Udayadityavarman II, son of Suryavarman I, and despite some looting, it remains in a remarkably good state. There are several intricately carved lintels that are above some of the tower doorways. Some of the other best-preserved examples are now housed in the Battambang Museum.
From the top of the mountain, there are superb views of the surrounding countryside and small villages that are dotted around the endless rice paddies punctuated with characteristic sugar palm trees. To the south, you will see Crocodile Mountain and to the north-west Phnom Sampeau.
Towards the base of the mountain is a cave called L’Ang But Meas. Access to the cave is not brilliant as you will need to scramble down the mountainside to reach it, however, you will be rewarded with a place not many people get to see. After squeezing through an easy to miss fissure in a small rocky outcrop and after a couple of short squatted crawls the cave opens into two magical large airy caverns, with a shaft of light penetrating from above.
You can see a large stalactite hanging from the ceiling with what is considered sacred sparkling water dripping into a bowl below. Locals say that drinking this water leads to knowledge of the past, present, and future. As you take the short walk around the base of the mountain back to the car park you will pass through a nice area of countryside and pass a small pond next to very old traditional Chinese style pagoda.
This hilltop temple on the road to Pailin was the location of a major tragedy during the brutal Khmer Rouge era of Cambodia’s history. Phnom Sampeau is best visited in the early morning or late afternoon when the light and the wonderful views are at their best.
Children, some of whom speak very good English, hang around the base of the temple and will walk up with you as your guides. They will expect a small amount of money in return.
At the summit of Phnom Sampeau, you will see a series of temples and a ticket booth charging $2 for admission. There are phenomenal views to the south and of Phnom Banan in addition to many resident macaques who like to dine on the food left as offerings in the temples.
Between the summit and the mobile-phone antenna, a deep canyon – its vertical sides cloaked in greenery – descends steeply through a natural arch into an incredible subterranean world of stalactites, creeping vines, air roots, bats and statues of two Angkorian era warriors.
About half-way up the cement access road to the summit, a turn-off leads 250m up the hill to the caves of Phnom Sampeau. The staircase is flanked by lush forest and leads into a cavern where there is a golden reclining Buddha that lies peacefully next to a glass-walled memorial. At the base of the hill, a 15m-high Buddha is being carved out of the cliff face, starting with the head. The local macaques can be seen treating the scaffolding like a giant bamboo gym!
Wat Ek Phnom
Wat Ek Phnom is situated about 13 kilometres north of the Cobra Bridge in Battambang city. It was built during the Bayon period and is a less well-preserved example than Phnom Banan. It is situated next to a large pond and behind a 28 meter Buddha statue. It is a contrasting place as there is a newly constructed working temple in front of the ruins. Wat Ek is the centre of holiday festivities for the people of the local village who traditionally dress up and have a celebration between the old and the new temples.
Built during the 11th century, supposedly in 1029 under the reign of King Sorayak Varman II (1002-1050), today it has been mostly reduced to ruins and visitors have to climb over fallen masonry and huge blocks of stone in order to traverse the grounds. Because of this, and its tranquil setting, Wat Ek Phnom is a must for anyone visiting the Battambang area as it actually gives you the impression that you are discovering a forgotten temple.
Ek Phnom is easy to get to as it is just north on the river road (Road 1) approximately 10 km from Battambang town. As you near the temple, you will pass over a small concrete bridge and shortly afterwards the road beyond will veer off to the right where you will see the modern temple there to the left. The temple ruins are located to the rear.
Wat Gahndahl is located on the east bank of the Sanker River. There is an unusual wall mural on the outside of the temple that features a progressing story of a man that apparently killed his own mother and finally had to board a boat bound for hell.
The interesting feature of this wat is the Angkor replica about 110 meters from the rear area of the temple. It was built in 1969 over a small concrete pool and is the pride of the monks staying there. They say spirits and relics of deceased monks are housed inside. Battambang is not short on temples and you will see much more around town and on the way to many of the attractions.
Wat Pee Pahd
Wat Pee Pahd represents the rich cultural heritage which is associated with the city. Wat Pee Pahd is one of the best among the many Battambang Tourist Attractions and visited by many visitors throughout the year.The Buddhist temple is situated between River Road 1 and River Road 2 in the city of Battambang.
Tourists who embark on Battambang should keep Wat Pee Pahd in their itinerary. The country of Cambodia has a strong connection with Buddhism and many of the Cambodian cities have an array of Buddhist temples. As you enter the temple you will find that the interior section is wonderfully decorated and consists of some intricately carved statues of the Buddha and other deities.