Battambang & Pailin
updated December 2005
Battambang has lately become one of Cambodia's more popular provinces for tourism. Easily accessible, after the temples of Angkor, the bustle of Phnom Penh, the beaches of Sihanoukville, the hilltribes of Ratanakiri, Battambang offers another side of Cambodia - the rural agrarian side, as Battambang has always been the breadbasket of the country.
The best time to visit is during the rainy season or just after, when the fields flash in electric green revealing the full splendor and beauty of rural Cambodia, an attraction that leaves many a positive impression on foreign visitors.
Battambang is bordered on the west by Thailand, on the north by Banteay Meanchey, to the northeast by Siem Reap, on the east by the Tonle Sap lake, and to the south by Pursat. Pailin, a semi-autonomous region is surrounded by Battambang on three sides and by Thailand on the fourth.
I've been through Battambang a few times and wrote a full story on it back in 2000. The travelogue will offer further insight into some of the attractions listed below. Though the visit was over five years ago and some of the practical matters have changed, the attractions themselves have not. You may read it here.
Pailin and Battambang are mentioned in a story about a motorbike trip I took in April 2001 which you can read here.
The main attractions are scattered around the countryside and half the fun is getting there, enjoy the scenery while you do. Many pagodas and chatty monks around as well.
About the only thing not listed in the guidebooks is the crocodile farm along the way to Wat Ek Phnom, ask a motodriver if you're interested. And don't arrive drunk, when I visited in 2000 it was a matter of using cement walkways above the crocodile pits with no barriers, no fences, nothing.
I've always stayed at the Teo Hotel, which is still the top place in town, clean rooms starting at $11. Good restaurant. Budget travelers seem to favor the Chhaya Hotel which is one block south of Psah Nat. The Teo is another four blocks south. It's easy to spot - it's quite large.
Battambang is served by bus, boat, train, and taxi. The airport is closed indefinitely. Boat: Speedboats daily to and from Siem Reap, 3-14 hours depending on the time of year, $10-15. Train: to and from Phnom Penh, slow and cheap, a couple of times a week. Taxi, pick-up trucks to and from anywhere you can draw a line to on the map. Proper bus service to and from Phnom Penh, Sisophon/Poipet, and Siem Reap. Road is an excellent condition.
The following four sites comprise the standard Battambang itinerary and any motodop worth his salt will be very familiar with these locations. Getting to any of these places should pose no difficulties.
Wat Ek Phnom
When I visited in April 2001 I stayed at the Hang Meas Pailin Hotel and it was more than adequate.
Pailin makes its money off gems, casinos, and whatever crosses the border that the rest of us need not know about. You will certainly be offered the opportunity to buy some stones, but I suggest you know what you're doing before you do. The casinos are at the border about 20 kilometers from town. Whatever else goes on around here doesn't concern you, however, do not let someone tell you that this is some crazy Khmer Rouge town with rogue soldiers looking for foreigners to rob or kidnap. It doesn't happen, the place is fine. However, do be concerned about land mines so don't go wandering off the roads.
There are a couple of pagodas in and around town and a few waterfalls, but other than that it's nothing more than a nice ride out, a night on the town, and a ride back to Battambang the following day.
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