There are plenty of reasons to get out of the city and explore the countryside around Battambang. There is so much to see: the rural way of life in small villages, the rice paddy fields, and expansive stretches of open space that yield long and flat from the city to the horizon. The outskirts of Battambang are also dotted with some awesome points of interest, so you can most certainly do a bit of sightseeing along the way as well. I’ll start off with some recommended modes of transportation and move on to a few hot spots and suggested routes.
The best ways to get around:
In order to take it slow and have time to really enjoy your surroundings, I highly recommend taking a bicycle around some of the nearer countryside areas. You can rent one from a number of guesthouses and tour operators in Battambang quite easily for $1-2 per day. Cycling allows you to stop and enjoy the environment at your leisure, tailoring your own schedule and allowing you to really appreciate the journey.
It’s easy enough to follow most of the main routes yourself, just get familiar with the roads before you set off. Stick to the main roads (none of the ones I suggest are particularly large or busy roads anyway) and veer off as you wish. 3G coverage is pretty good so bring a smartphone and you’ll always know where you are.
If you would prefer a guided tour however, check out some recommendations below (full itinerary details can be found on their respective websites). A livelihoods tour where you can see the various jobs of agricultural villages, from rice wine to noodle-making, is a great option if you wish to interact with the communities you visit on your journey.
The Battambang Bike offer half and full-day countryside tours with guide ($18/$38 per person) including any entry fees to sites visited), and a bat cave half-day tour ($18 per person including entry fees). They have more tours coming soon and bike rental also available.
Soksabike have half and full-day countryside tour ($35/$50, reducing with number of pax in group), half and full-day livelihoods tour with visits to local families and businesses ($27/$40 reducing with number of pax in group). Bike rental also available.
Butterfly Tours offer half and full day livelihoods tour ($18/$38 per person), half-day tours to Ek Phnom ($16 per person), half-day tours to the bamboo train ($15pp), and half-day countryside tours ($16 per person). Longer multi-day tours also available.
The suggestions below can be reached by tuk-tuk or renting a motorcycle, if cycling is not your thing.
Recommended cycling routes and sights:
The journey to Ek Phnom itself is simply exhilarating. Follow Road 3 north out of the city and you’ll weave your way through small villages, catching the occasional glimpse of children swimming in the river or chasing one another along its banks. The villages and countryside on this route form a perfect blend of rural life and stunning countryside that ends at the magnificent ruins of Ek Phnom, before you cycle back of course!
A shorter route heads south from Road 1, following the river towards Wat Kor. Out here you can also appreciate village life, or check out the ‘Ancient House’, belonging to Mr. Noun Chea, the second brother of the Pol Pot regime, and showcasing a French colonial-era home. There are also several beautiful pagodas on this route, including Wat Kor itself, making for peaceful stopping points. The trip out and back shouldn’t be more than 40 or 50 minutes of cycling in total, allowing time to visit the stopping points of your choice.
If you are prepared to go a bit further afield, head south on Road 154 towards Wat Banan. This route is a stunning ride through villages and lush countryside, following the river much of the way. En route there are a couple of pagodas should you wish to stop, and you’ll also pass the Battambang vineyard where you can do a wine tasting. The ride is around 18 km (11 miles) from the city each way.
Too far to cycle (or perhaps only for the very adventurous!):
1000 Islands resort
Wooden platforms stand above a lake, providing a relaxing and natural setting for a day trip. The journey is around 45 minutes by tuk-tuk from Battambang, and that is the recommended way to reach the site. Food and drinks are available and are brought to your platform by boat!
Kamping Pouy Reservoir
Around 30 km (18.6 miles) out of town following the Wat Banan road is Kamping Pouy reservoir, where locals gather to relax and enjoy the water and scenery on weekends. It may also be possible at times to charter a boat to explore further.
There are also several waterfalls, varying in size, further on the Wat Banan road, headed to Pailin, if you are ready for a longer journey.
The best part about exploring the countryside around Battambang however, has to be the amalgamation of rural village life and awesome sites. Enjoy exploring!