With only three weeks to spend in Cambodia, I was having a hard time deciding what to do after leaving Siem Reap and exploring Angkor Wat. Then I came across Here Be Dragons, a Game of Thrones-inspired hostel. My decision was made immediately.
Battambang was a nice change a pace from Siem Reap. It’s not particularly off the beaten path but not as busy as Siem Reap or Phnom Penh. It was the first time I felt like I was in the “real” Cambodia. Battambang has no shortage of activities. Here are some of the major things to do there:
1. Bamboo Train
At 50 km/hour this “norry” (commonly known as the Bamboo Train ) was originally built by the French but was abandoned when the Khmer Rouge shut it down. It’s now a popular tourist attraction. 50 kilometers might sound slow but it sure doesn’t feel tame when you’re sitting cross-legged on a piece of wood with no seatbelt. The train costs $5 USD to ride and is open daily.
2. Killing Caves
Instead of masking Cambodia’s traumatic history they honor it by sharing and educating visitors. The hike up to the top of Phnom Sampeau can be strenuous for some. The tropical weather in Cambodia means that it’s often over 100 degrees. I recommend bringing an extra water bottle, until this day I have never sweat more during a hike in my life. Beware of the monkeys. They are not your friends. The hike itself is short but the memories will last a lifetime. After you climb the hill you can explore the caves in which the Kmer Rouge dumped the remains of thousands of Cambodian civilians.
3. Battambang Bat Caves
Phnom Sampeau is home to millions of bats. Once you’re done exploring the killing caves hike back down the mountain and grab dinner from one of the stalls. Wait until sunset and watch the bats leave their home for the night. As an avid bat lover, this was one of the main reasons I chose to go to Battambang and it did not disappoint.
4. Crocodile Farm
Be warned this is a farm not a sanctuary. The crocodiles raised here are for food and clothing. The conditions that they are kept in may be triggering for some. For that reason, I personally did not choose to go on this excursion however if you want to hold a baby crocodile, this would be the place.
5. Tour The City
Battambang is known for several crafts including fish paste, rice wine, bamboo sticky rice, and spring roll paper. Support the locals. Take a tour and learn more about the history of the city and try the local flavors. The Bamboo Sticky Rice was delicious and I got to see the source of the cobra scorpion vodka I had been drinking in Thailand. And of course, there are always temples.