“Country things are the necessary root of our life – and that remains true even of a rootless and tragically urban civilization. To live permanently away from the country is a form of slow death.” ― Esther Meynell
Is Meynell right? Are we living a form of slow death? While I have no idea behind the truth of the above quote, I truly enjoyed every trip to the countryside. The same applies for my trip at Battambang.
While Battangbang town has lots of beautiful and interesting architecture, a visit to the countryside (either in the north or south) is almost mandatory – as that’s where the real treasures glitter. The north presents local artisans villages while the south presents abit of everything from ancient temples, local farms and settlements, etc. to an open-air train ride. So, read on for some ‘treasures’ that you can find at the countryside of Battambang.
5 Reasons To Go South in Battambang:
Bamboo Train: The Ride of Your Life
Imagine the warmth of sun on your skin and cool breeze that ruffles your hair as you zoom past lush, green fields on either side of you. Running at 50km/hour, the bamboo train or norry (derived from the French word ‘lorry’) is an improvised rail vehicle consisting of a wood frame, covered with slats of bamboo, rested on bogies that resembles weightlifting barbells!
Unique in the sense that it is open-air and readily detachable, this ride provides a cool view of the countryside in a genius manner. Since there’s only one track, you might encounter a norry coming in your direction. Fret not, as that’s when one of the norries would be dismantled to allow the other to pass.
Wat Banan: An Angkor-era Temple with a Magic Cave
No pain, no gain. This phrase will certainly come into mind, as you try to make your way to Wat Banan via a steep staircase of more than 300 steps (I had to make several stops). Don’t look back or down in the midst of your climbing if you have heights phobia like me – I just have to emphasize this again – the steps are really steep! Nevertheless, good things come to those who persevere and Wat Banan is definitely worth your effort. Dating back to 1050 with Hindu origins, the structure of this ancient temple resembles that of Angkor style. Word has it that it was rebuilt in 1219 using the same stones, but as a Buddhist temple. Due to ravages of time and looting, many of the Buddha statues are no longer there but one can still make out the faint but beautiful carvings around the temple structures.
A magic cave reputedly lies on one side of the hill where the temple stands. Known as the Cave of Sacred Water, drips from a stalactite here can grant you the knowledge of the past, present and future! I am unsure if the cave that I have visited was the right cave (since our driver declined to climb the stairs with us) but it certainly has the feel of an ancient space. Perhaps some things are better left unknown.
Chan Thai Chhoeung: Wine Tasting at Cambodia’s First Winery
Along your way to Wat Banan, you might pass by the one and only winery in Cambodia. If you enjoy drinking, this makes for a short and pleasant visit whereby you can taste locally produced wine. For people who cannot appreciate wine (unfortunately, like me), the chilled grape juice gives a good reason to stop by. Sweet, flavourful and refreshing – it reminds me of top quality Ribena. Another non-alcohol beverage is homemade ginger honey. Prior to your wine tasting, stroll between rows of grape vines to see the ingredients of your drink in its raw-est form.
Explore Local Communities from Khmer Homes to Malay-Cham Village
The perks of a private tour in the South (provided you have a good driver/guide) means that you get to see and explore parts of the local communities that you would not otherwise be accessible to. Along the way, we passed by different farms (i.e. mushroom, chili, etc.) and local communities. Besides the Khmer or Chinese, there is a Malay village located by a beautiful river. The village’s mosque, which looks like a palace if compared to what the locals are staying in, bespoke the locals’ devotion to their religion.
Phnom Sampeau: Skulls, Monkeys & Bats
Known also as Phnom Sampov, this is a mountain whose namesake derives from its resemblance to a ship, though you’d hardly be able to see it by standing at the foot of this hill-like mountain. It has been featured in popular songs and legends, but in addition to its Golden Buddha statue and panoramic view, therein lies a dark history associated with Cambodia’s ill-fated civil war. Cave shrines were dedicated to local Khmer Rogue victims and their remains (or rather the skulls) are shown in these dark spaces. At the top of the mountain, there is a community of monkeys – aggressive yet amusing at times. At sunset time (near 5pm), it seems a tradition and highlight to stand at the foot of the mountain, waiting for the bats to swarm out of their cave. While it looks somewhat impressive, I was more amazed by the locals’ dedicated fascination of nature.
Some would argue that there’s nothing much to do in Battambang, but depending on your interests and travel style – you might just find that special element that calls for your return. If time permits and you are someone who likes to take things slow (like I do), then a 4-day vacation at Battambang would be just right to savour all the places of interest or activities that this rice-producing province has to offer.
From Me to You:
A Simple Reference Guide For Your Travel In Battambang, Cambodia
- 5 REASONS TO LOVE THE KINGDOM OF CAMBODIA
- EXPLORE CAMBODIA: TA DAMBONG OF BATTAMBANG (BAT-DAM-BONG), THE MAN BEHIND THE CITY OF LOST STICK
- 8 USEFUL TIPS FOR TRAVELING BETWEEN SIEM REAP & BATTAMBANG
- EXPLORE BATTAMBANG: CREATING & TASTING KHMER’S CUISINE IN NARY’S KITCHEN
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/