There are many small but magical places tucked away behind some of the bigger cities that are often overlooked. But we assure you, you won't want to miss out on the opportunity to visit the picturesque riverside city of Battambang.
Cambodia is known for its breathtaking temples, and is home to the mother temple Angkor Wat. But even with its booming tourism industry, the region struggles with many social and economic challenges. Today, we still see many marginalised groups not receiving the support that they need and they live either on or below the poverty line. Working collectively with our charity The FutureSense Foundation, we are able to offer some support and make an impact.
Over the years Challenges Abroad have run community challenges, health promotion challenges, wildlife and environment challenges as well as our community internship in Cambodia. While the pandemic has tested us, and prevented us from having our volunteers on the ground, we have persevered and created a new program to enable help to our hub in Cambodia. We recently launched our Virtual Internship Program and if you’re passionate in getting involved and making a difference submit your interest here.
Battambang is the capital city of Battambang province and like the rest of Cambodia the area suffered under the Khmer Rouge. The area was evacuated and migrated out to the countryside where many lost their lives. A week after the fall of Phnom Pehn in January 1979, Battambang was liberated by the Vietnamese but the Khmer Rouge continued in the north west of the province. For years visitors were not permitted into the area as it was considered the ‘front line’ of the war. The city was finally in peace in 1996 and has progressed over time, however you’ll find some signs warning people of possible minefields in areas throughout Cambodia.
But why should you get around to visiting Battambang now? Well, not only will you get to experience Cambodia’s charming culture and kind community, but expose yourself to a much greater and meaningful international experience!
Also known as Nori (“lorry” in Khmer), the Bamboo Train will cost you $5USD and take you through beautiful scenery of Battambang, and give tourists the option to stop and explore the Banan temple. It is made out of bamboo and two sets of wheels; the train is powered only by a small motorcycle engine but can reach up to 50 km/h. The transport was originally created during the UN’s Transitional Authority of Cambodia period used as a lorry system that ran on the countries barley operational northern rail line. But has since turned into a tourist attraction and seen as a thrilling ride.
Battambang is home to ‘Phare Ponleu Selpak’ which is a Cambodian non-profit arts school that offers support to children and surrounding communities. They have programs that are artistical, educational, social and invest a lot of time in to community outreach and engagement. The school is most famous for its circus performances which include several impressive acrobatics. You won’t want to miss it!
You and your friends can grab a tuk tuk and travel a few kilometres out to Phnom Sampeou. You’ll be able to check out amazing views that stretch endlessly towards the horizon. You can explore the temple and Killing Caves that soldiers used during the Khmer Rouge and inside you’ll find a shrine. At around 6pm the bats will start pouring out of the caves so be sure to be in a position to watch them take flight for their night hunt.
Be sure to check out the night markets in Battambang! You’ll find heaps of goodies to take home for yourself or as gifts for your friends and family. You can visit the original night market at the Northeast corner of Psar Nath or the new one on the riverfront, either way you’re bound to find something.
While it can be difficult, it is important that you support the local community in a sustainable manner. You can often see children roaming the streets begging or selling small tokens like homemade bracelets. These children are out of school to make money for their families instead of getting the education they need for their future. It is crucial you do not give money out to support this behavior, stick to stalls/vendors, restaurants and take advantage of the cheap massages Battambang have to offer! If you feel that you would like to contribute more you can always leave a donation with our charity to further support our work within the community.