The hardest thing about being a vegetarian in Cambodia is fielding the question “How do you do it? It must be so hard!” every day. Thankfully, it’s not hard at all to be a vegetarian in Battambang, and almost every tourist restaurant has vegetarian options on the menu. In this post, I’ll cover the best vegetarian restaurants in Battambang that cater specifically to vegetarians and vegans, and a few runner-ups that I’m including because of their super special vegetarian menu.
Look around and you’ll see Khmer New Year, Chol Chhnam Thmei, being celebrated around the country. The holiday is Cambodia’s most important, bringing the country to a near standstill as city residents head home to the provinces to spend time with their families, have parties and visit their local pagoda.
The holiday celebrates the end of the harvest season and marks the start of a new year (and also the start of the truly hot hot season). Although the holiday is officially only three or four days long—in 2019 it’s April 14, 15, 16—it can extend onto one or both adjoining weekends, and often even a few days before that. In the days leading up to Khmer New Year, prices, especially for transportation, can go much higher than usual. Continue reading
The trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap by bus has improved by leaps and bounds during the time I have lived in Cambodia. The once bumpy road is fully paved now, and in 2019 the trip now takes between 5.5 and 6 hours. But between the view of the Cambodian countryside, the smooth ride, and onboard WiFi, this is one of the best ways to travel across Cambodia.
Giant Ibis at a glance…
- Price: $15
- Schedule: 8:45 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 12:30 p.m.; night bus 11 and 11:30 p.m.
- Time: 5.5 to 6 hours
- Buy tickets online
Whether you’re a short-term expat or just visiting, having travel insurance in Cambodia is crucial. (Long-term expat? More info on health insurance here). If you’ve read my friend’s horror story, you’re probably already convinced. If not, read on.
Here’s why you need travel insurance in Cambodia
Even healthy people get sick and have accidents
Just because you’re young and healthy doesn’t mean you won’t need medical care. Accidents (often of the traffic variety) happen with astonishing frequency. Last year, nearly a dozen of my friends in Siem Reap contracted dengue fever. I got bitten by an unvaccinated puppy and had to get rabies shots in Sihanoukville. Even if you’re a low-risk traveler, that’s no guarantee that you won’t get sick or hurt.
Medical care isn’t cheap
Many people traveling around Southeast Asia think that they don’t need to buy an insurance plan because medical care in the region is cheap; they figure they can just pay out of pocket if an emergency comes up. And that’s true for minor complaints, but if you need to stay overnight or have surgery, the cost can be in the thousands and even higher if you need to leave the country for care. Most expats familiar with the state of medicine in Cambodia wouldn’t dream of having even minor surgery here, and neither should you.
Looking to escape the city for the day? Every so often you need some time away from the droves of tourists and the soundtrack of Khmer weddings for a little breath of fresh air. The following is a list of easy day trips from Siem Reap that will provide that bit of (relative) peace you’ve been craving.
Lotus farms and Phnom Krom
If a change of scenery is what you’re after, spend a day at the lotus farms before heading to Phnom Krom for sunset. Just a fifteen minute tuk-tuk ride (or easy bike ride) away from the center of town down route 63, where shops and local markets give way to green rice paddies and picturesque lotus farms. Choose one of these many hang-out spots, some with huts, others with a large deck and ample hammocks. If there is an entrance fee, it is usually only 2000 riel. Continue reading
There are a couple of easy ways to go from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap (and Siem Reap to Phnom Penh) in 2019. There are options to fit every budget, but some are nicer than others. Right now the road is in great condition and it’s a smooth ride, unlike in years past. The journey by road usually takes between 5 and 6 hours, depending on your mode of transport if you go by road.
Ways to travel from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
- Taxi: Costs $65-100. Most comfortable option. Best balance of price and convenience. About 5 hours.
- Bus: Costs $6-15. Smoothest ride and best views. About 6 hours.
- Mini-bus/van: Costs $9-12. Faster than the bus, but more cramped. About 5.5 hours.
- Plane: Costs $30-120. Fastest method, but domestic flights are unreliable. About 1 hour.
- Ferry: Costs $35. Best scenery, if you sit outside. About 8 hours, sometimes more.
For travelers to Battambang, the chief attraction of Nary Kitchen is its namesake, Nary, and the kitchen, both for its cooking classes and reputation for safe food that doesn’t upset sensitive foreign tummies. The staff are happy to let you check out their gleaming kitchen, which makes for a reassuring start to a meal. The restaurant is also one of the few in Battambang with genuine vegetarian dishes (it can be hard to avoid fish and oyster sauce elsewhere!).
Located down a side street in Battambang, Nary’s has a quieter atmosphere than restaurants in the town center. The restaurant’s fare includes Khmer traditional food, as well as other typical Asian and Western dishes. Fish amok is a specialty, and fresh spring rolls are always popular. On average, a main meal will cost you about three dollars.
Nary Kitchen is also Battambang’s original Khmer cooking school. It’s run by genial, talkative Doot, who is fluent in English and French, and his wife Nary, who oversees the cooking. Nary learned her recipes on the family farm as a child.
Classes, which cost $10, are preceded by a shopping trip to the market, to show you how to identify the freshest local ingredients. Classes teach you to cook four courses including a dessert. The class takes three hours and you get to eat what you make and a recipe book (in English and French) to take away.
When we visited, the menu they were making included fresh veggie spring rolls, fish amok, beef lok lak, and a banana and tapioca and coconut milk dessert.
Nary Kitchen is on Street 111, near the western end of Psar Nath (the main market). It’s easy enough to find, but you if needed your tuk tuk guy can phone for directions. Don’t let him mix it up with ‘The Kitchen,’ another eatery. The restaurant is open from breakfast until 10 p.m., or often later if everyone is having a good time.
Cooking classes are twice a day, in the morning from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and in the afternoon from 3:30 until 6:30 p.m. and cost $10 per person. It’s best to book for the cooking school in advance ([email protected] or 012 763 950).
Open daily, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Street 111, near Psar Nath, Battambang
T: 012 763 950
Boasting one of the most beautiful rivers in Cambodia, Kampot has kayaking that is suited to both beginners and those looking for a challenge. For skilled kayakers, the Tuek Chhou Rapids located 10 kilometers from Kampot town offer a bit of a challenge. For those of us just starting out or preferring a more laid back experience, roughly 5 kilometers from Kampot town is a lazy offshoot of the Tuek Chhou River known as the Green Cathedral or Green Loop.
The Green Cathedral is named for the foliage the lines the waterway. Along the way, you will pass through areas where the plants have grown to a size that allows them to touch leaves across the water, forming a peaceful canopy that filters out a bit of the blazing Cambodian sun. As Kampot grows, more guesthouses and residences are springing up and threatening the canopy. For now there is still a good amount of nature to enjoy, but don’t wait too long to make your trip. Continue reading