Located in northwestern Cambodia, Battambang (pronounced as Bat-dam-bong) is the 2nd largest city in the country with around 140,000 inhabitants. Being the leading rice-producing province, it is no wonder that ‘rice’ is a staple, not just in food, but also in local legends and myths.
One of these legends relates to Ta Dambong, whom the city was named after. There are various versions to the story but my favourite has to be the one told by our driver/guide, David. In his version, Ta Dambong was featured as an army cook who turned into a very strong, big and black man after eating a pot of rice blackened by the magic stick. The story ends with Ta Dambong disappearing with the magic stick, thereby deriving in the name “Battambang”, which can be interpreted as the City of Lost Stick or the City of Disappearing Stick.
If you are interested to meet this ambassador of Battambang, head on to the traffic circle on National Road 5. Come rain or shine, Ta Dambong is set in stone at this eastern part of town to welcome all visitors and devotees. He may appear to be imposing with his frowning black face and magic stick BUT he is known to be the guardian of Battambang and her people. During festivals or (touch wood!) the occasional periods when one is down on luck, one would visit Ta Dambong to seek blessings.
At the foot of Ta Dambong stands a makeshift stall selling incense sticks and caged birds. If you are lucky, you may see devotees letting go of some birds, either to give thanks or seek blessings. The gesture of freeing birds (always in a pair) denotes a good deed.
Despite its title as a city, Battambang struck me more like a vibrant, artistic town and there is a laidback atmosphere that sets it apart from the constantly chaotic bustling Siem Reap. It is very easy and comfortable to walk around the town area whereby temples and interesting statues stand in between ancient and modern infrastructure. One of the city’s distinct characteristics is the lack of / minimal traffic lights but crossing the roads is a breeze, especially in the early morning before 7am or at night after 8pm.
Set alongside the clean and odourless picturesque Sangkae River where locals gather in the evening, Battambang marks an idyllic city that is growing steadily. Visit it soon for a relaxing vacation with a bout of local charms!
The above information has been compiled based on various sources, including my own experience and should only be used as a reference. For more information on the destination, do check out: http://www.tourismcambodia.org/