First impressions are a funny thing—they can make or break the deal. When we first arrived in Battambang, we were NOT impressed. While not firmly on the tourist trail, nevertheless we have heard many good things about it and the Cambodians themselves seem to like the city. Plus it had the Bamboo Train and the Phare Ponleu Selpak circus. But Battambang turned out to be one of those places that can grow on you if you give it a chance.
The first thing you notice about the place is that it’s strangely quiet for the 2nd largest city in Cambodia—its lights out for the entire city centre by 9pm it seems (we have a roof top deck at our hotel that offers 360 degree view so we know!). Curious to know what the exact demographics are for its population—I suspect children under the age of 16 yr make up a high proportion versus adults, hence you don’t have that many cars on the road nor people out late at night? The Lonely Planet says thanks to the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, the mean age for the people is 22yrs, with life expectancy set at only 62yrs (mostly due to poor health care we’re told). You don’t see many old people in Cambodia, but lots and lots of babies and children.
|Midday, outside the Market in town|
Secondly, many people in Battambang seem to have Chinese heritage in them, clearly setting them apart physically from the native Cambodians. It is reflected in the apparent relative wealth here in the city compared to in Siem Reap and in the villages. Here the women get manicures and pedicures (in the markets mind you), get their hair done, and shop for western clothes. They are also not as friendly.
But like we said, Battambang grows on you, and we ended up finding lots to do in this hot dusty city for the 3.5 days which we spent here, some of which included:
· Food Stalls by the river nightly for yummy cheap eats
· Nightly Amusement Park, with rides for the kids starting at 0.25 cents, including a $1.25 kiddie roller coaster. (Open nightly from 5-9pm)
· Bamboo Train
· Phare Ponleu Circus (Sun, Mon, Thurs nights)
· Wat Ek Phnon: 9th C hindu temple ruins, built before Angkor Wat
· Wat Banan: original temple dates back to 1050, in the style of Angkok Wat
· Wat Somrong Knong: this wat was used by the Khmer Rouge as a prison and the nearby fields as killing fields. Now stands a monument (The Well of Shadows) with very graphic bas-reliefs depicting some atrocities which occurred at Wat Somrong Knong.
|Killing Caves in Background|