By Brad Miller
Battambang is an amazing city. It somehow manages to be the third largest urban center in Cambodia while maintaining a small town feel. Although it doesn’t have as many ancient temples as Siem Reap, as many coffee shops as Phnom Penh, or as many beaches as Sihanoukville (zero, actually), it’s still a delightful place to visit. Here are the top 10 reasons why!
#1 – The Green Mango (obviously)
Where else can you find fresh-baked banana bread, cheeseburgers, ginger pork, Mexican food, and smoothies all in one place? And also know that your support is giving job training and mentorship to at-risk girls? The Green Mango! Plus, they may have the greatest grilled cheese and tomato soup on the planet.
#2 – Public Calisthenics
There’s something surreal about walking along a river in Southeast Asia and hearing jazzercise music drifting from a park. But it’s nothing compared to the sight of dozens of middle-aged Cambodians exercising in tandem all along the walkway. If you’re feeling adventurous you can join in too!
#3 – Disappearing Tuk-tuks
Battambang has its share of tuk-tuks. White people walking down the street are often hailed and offered rides. But if you want to experience true magic, then try to find one on your own. Whenever you don’t need one, they are everywhere. But when you have an actual need, they disappear. Battambang is truly a place of mysterious and powerful hidden forces.
#4 – The Battambang Carnival
This hidden gem has it all – mini roller coasters, alligators and snakes, kiddie bumper cars, a roller rink, even a pool and waterslide. At night, crooning Cambodian love songs play over speakers and multi-colored lights give a feeling of timelessness and old-fashioned fun.
#5 – Boat Rides
Feel like a quick trip to Angkor Wat? Take a bus. But if you want the scenic route, try Battambang’s boat service. Packed onto a wooden boat with 20 other people, you will get an up-close and personal view of Cambodia’s riverside villages. Estimated travel time? 7-14 hours. Probably 7. Maybe 14. Well… let’s just say 7.
#6 – Nocturnal Noodle
Deep in the night, the sound of wooden chimes rings out, “click click click”. It is the hail of the nighttime noodle vendor! If you find yourself craving noodles after dark, simply call out to these musicians as they walk by and they will run back to the noodle cart with your order. Within minutes, fresh, steaming noodles shall be yours. Now that’s service!
#7 – Coconuts
After a long day in the hot sun, there is no beverage in the world that can compare to a fresh coconut, chilled, hacked open with a machete, and served with a straw. You can buy one from almost any roadside stall for about 50 cents.
#8 – Bamboo Train
Two sets of wheels and an outboard motor held together with bamboo sticks. It doesn’t putter along like a kiddie novelty ride either. It flies down the tracks and takes bumps and gaps with reckless abandon. Think roller coaster cart without all those nasty safety restrictions. Needless to say, a LOT of fun.
#9 – Bat Cave
Every sunset thousands of bats take flight from their shared home to feast on mosquitoes and moths. Giant swarms of bats resemble columns of smoke or ghostly serpents dancing above the rice fields. Bonus points if you sing the Batman theme song when you visit.
#10 – Countless Adorable Kids!
Ok, so you can find cute kids anywhere in Cambodia, but Battambang’s got them in abundance. If your day is made better by the smile of a child or the laughter of unrestrained play, you could do worse than the streets of this town.