We travelled to Battambang by bus – one of our easier journeys to date, only taking us a few hours door-to-door. Our bus tickets only cost us $6 each as well, however our hostel quoted a few dollars more than this, so be sure to shop around for the best prices. We got a tuk tuk to our guesthouse for as little as 50 cents, but we were aware that this meant the driver would likely ask us to use him for any journeys we took whilst we were there.
What we did
We only stayed in Battambang for 2 nights, which was enough time for us. Our first day we spent mainly getting our bearings, checking out the cafes and restaurants, however the next day we had an excursion booked with our tuk tuk driver, taking us to all of the main sights in Battambang. We bargained him down for a better price, and paid 18 dollars between us.
In the morning we visited two temples. One of them had been there since the 18th century with the newer one just behind it.
Following that we visited a rice farm, where we watched the girls make rice paper for spring rolls. You could choose to try some fresh spring rolls – which of course we did – our tuk tuk driver paid for this himself from the money we gave him.
We then went further down the road to a house where they made dried banana snacks, slicing the bananas into super thin pieces and drying these out in the sun. We wished we’d have bought a bag of these – so tasty!
From here, our driver asked if we’d like to visit the crocodile farm. With it being one of the ‘main attractions’ in Battambang, we thought why not. To be honest, I’m still not sure I enjoyed visiting the crocodile farm or whether I’d recommend it, but it’s certainly an eye opener. We paid 3 dollars entry but we were only inside for about 15 minutes. First, you’re taken inside where there are baby crocs in big buckets, which you can hold and have a picture with. Scott went first and managed to keep it still, but on my go the croc kept snapping its head around despite me gripping it’s tail as instructed. Whilst they’re only small, their teeth are still really sharp. I really didn’t like it and quickly passed the croc back to the tuk tuk driver, much to Scott’s amusement.
You then walk around the corner to the enclosures where the big crocs are kept. One thing that struck me was how still they all were, they looked dead! Then we learnt that they’re only fed 2x a month as it’s all the owner can afford to feed them. At first I found that hard to believe, until we were told that the farm has over 700 crocodiles. The adult ones being used for breeding and the baby ones sold to China and Vietnam for their skin/meat. We couldn’t believe how low the barrier was to all these hungry crocs, and when the tuk tuk driver prodded them with a stick to make them move, we decided it was time to go. I can see why people want to visit, but the conditions here seem really harsh and it personally wasn’t an enjoyable experience, but you can see for yourself.
We were then dropped off back at the guesthouse until later in the afternoon, where we were picked up to visit the ‘Bat Cave’ and ‘Killing Cave.’ Depending on what time you arrive to the caves, most people venture up to the Killing Cave first, you can walk up yourself – this will take an hour/ an hour and a half according to our tuk tuk driver – otherwise you can share a truck up to the top for a small cost, around a dollar each.
We went to the Bat Cave first as we arrived just before the bats were due to fly out. The time of this fluctuates but those who work in the area will be able to tell you on the day, it’s usually around 5pm. We enjoyed some cheap beers sat outside the bottom of the cave and waited. At first they flew out in dribs and drabs, eventually forming a huge swarm that went on for the best part of an hour, they just didn’t stop! Our driver told us they fly out like this everyday searching for food, returning back in the early hours of the morning, and everyday, tourists crowd to watch the spectacle.
As it was getting dark – and we didn’t fancy getting lost in the Killing Cave in the dark – we paid for a taxi up to the top with some friends we had met earlier that day. The views are absolutely stunning at the top of the cave, a stark contrast to the eerie black hole that stands as a lasting reminder of the brutality of the Khmer Rouge.
During the Khmer Rouge, thousands of innocent Cambodians were thrown to their death down into what is now known as the Killing Cave. Whilst the bones of those killed were once loose in the pit, they have since been kept in locked cages which you can see if you step down into the cave. We learnt that this was because those responsible for such crimes had put a bounty on the bones to try and cover it up, and the villagers were therefore stealing them for money. To be honest, we found the cave pretty overwhelming so didn’t stay down there for very long, but it was certainly very interesting and a must-see if you are visiting Battambang.
The caves were our final stop on the tour, however if we had been staying longer in Battambang, we would have loved to visit the Human Gallery. Entry is free, however it’s only open at certain times of the day, so you may want to look into this if you plan to visit here.
Where we stayed
We stayed in the ‘Lux Guesthouse’ in Battambang, mainly for its good location as we only had a short stay here. It was relatively cheap at $12 a night for a private double room with en suite. The only downside had to be that it was a fan room and we were absolutely roasting! We would have booked a room with AC however there wasn’t any available upon booking. If you stay here you can use the pool at a neighbouring hotel around the corner, where you can also get breakfast. Overall we had a really enjoyable stay here, but it’s worth noting that we would have stayed in a hostel had they not been described as 10km out of town, when in reality some were only a 10 minute walk from where we were staying. If you browse on Hostelworld, it’s perhaps worth checking the distance yourself on Google maps.
Where we ate/drank
Generally, we tend to have a browse on Trip Advisor for the best places to eat in a city and it’s never let us down. Rated no 1 was Jaan Bai which we visited on our first night, and it was truly amazing. They offer a tasting menu but we opted for 2 starters and 2 mains between us to share instead.
Corn fritters, calamari, chicken cooked in banana flower and the national dish of Cambodia, fish amok.
Each dish was cooked to absolute perfection and all for a reasonable price. The customer service was brilliant and to top it off, a share of the profits goes towards the Cambodia Children’s Trust (CCT). The restaurant is actually part of a social enterprise initiative for the CCT, which we learnt more about whilst waiting for our food. Briefly, there are an immense number of ‘fake orphanages’ in Battambang along with a jaw dropping number across all of Cambodia. Children are taken from their families and made to act as orphans for the profit of such organisations. CCT aims to get kids like this off the street, provide them with skills and training so they stand a chance in the world, some of which now work at places like Jaan Bai. If you wish to read more about this, click the link below.
Another place worth a visit is the Battambang BBQ. For $6 a head you can choose from a wide range of meat and seafood to cook on your own table BBQ. You can pile your plate up with noodles, rice, spring rolls, ribs and more to go with your meal, and the best part is, it’s all you can eat!
With it being low season, Battambang was pretty quiet, so we didn’t drink that much whilst we were there, however one bar we can recommend is Buffalo Alley, conveniently located just around the corner from Jaan Bai. The bar is ran entirely by students and the drinks are really cheap, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.
Budget wise, we didn’t spend too much in Battambang at all. We suggest you can easily get by on $30 a day (around £23), including your accommodation, food & drink, and any sightseeing you wish to do, on the basis that you would be staying a couple of days.