Cambodia: 3 days in Battambang with kids

Battambang was definitely on my list in Cambodia… 1) I’d seen just 6 backpacks post a video about riding the bamboo train and wanted to do it.  2) I’d read it had a little more of a ‘real Cambodia’ feel to it, which I was keen to see.  Here’s how we spent 3 days in Battambang with kids.

How to get there?

There are no trains in Cambodia so the only way to get from Phnom Penh is by bus or taxi (car with driver).

We opted for the bus (cheaper and option). We booked our bus through our hostel for USD 8 per person. The company we used was Bayon VIP.

We were collected from our hostel and taken to the bus station. From there we boarded another minibus. I wouldn’t describe it as VIP though – it was quite squished.

To add to this the driver thought he was on a formula 1 track!! To be honest I couldn’t count 1 vehicle that stayed on their side of the road for more than 2 minutes!!

It was a bit crazy, especially when one stupid driver overtook unnecessarily and we nearly had a head on collision!! Geez… I think I’ll sit further back from now on!

Anyway, the road conditions were reasonable and the ride was fairly comfortable. We stopped once during our 6 hour journey.  It was a large roadside shack with Western toilets with some local food and a few snacks. Nothing spectacular, but ok.

We arrived in Battambang on time and in one piece! Thank goodness! I’ve read better reviews of Mekong express so I think I’ll try them next time!!

 

Where we stayed

We stayed at the Blue guest house. They arranged collection by tuk tuk from the bus station. Our driver then offered to take us on any tours.  We’re always dubious of these ‘kind offers’ but he seemed to be ok and his price was roughly what we expected. 

The staff also asked if we were interested in anything then let them know. No one was pressuring theyus,  were just keen to help us in any way they could.

We arrived in our huge room with 3 large double beds, bathroom and even a TV. The mattresses were quite hard, but I’ve come to expect that from Cambodia! But because the room was so big, it was difficult to cool it with the air con. It was spacious, but I actually prefer a smaller room.

There is no restaurant on site, but they did offer breakfast at an additional cost. But there were plenty of eateries close by.  Generally, it was reasonable for the cost. 

 

Things to do

Bamboo train

Woo hoo!! If read lots of information about the bamboo trains closing. But in fact due to the new railway lines being established they had to move it. But actually, there are now 2 bamboo train lines running. The old and the new!! Confused?! So we’re we! But our hostel owner recommended the old line and we took her advice.

We arrived to a shack with a couple of bamboo carts on the line. There were quite a few locals sat down and no-one jumping to take our money. Had we made a mistake?!

A last came over and told us it would be $5 for adults and $5 for 2 kids. If actually heard that the minimum fee for a cart was $15 or $5 per person. Ok, so we were on the right lines.

We then boarded, if you can call it that, our transport. No side rails, no safety briefing – get on and go!

 

Wheeeeeeee!! Oh my goodness, it went quite fast and the boys were grinning! We all loved it. It was great to see some of the Cambodian farmland and enjoy the wind in it fair. Ha ha, even Keith (who was dubious before) said it was fun!

We reached the end of the line and we greeted by some young girls running stalls. They were very pleasant, but very persistent! And funnily enough you had to stop for 10 minutes anyway. I have no idea why, it wasn’t like it needed more petrol!

Anyway, I succumbed to the pretty scarves as actually I never normally get chance to shop! So I bought a scarf and a wrap skirt for $5. Bargain… maybe!?

Then it was back in the train. And this is where things got interesting because we meet people coming the other way! As there’s only 1 track, one train had to get off, dismantle and then reassemble once we’d passed! Very comical, but hard work as those rails are heavy!

We arrived back an hour later, slightly windswept but smiling. It was recommended we tip the driver so we gave a couple of dollars! Worth it for a fab little excursion out.

 

Killing caves & bat caves

An event which occurs at sundown each day is a steam of bats which leave a cave at Phnom Sampov.

In order to make an afternoon of it we headed out about 2.30pm to first visit the killing caves and then walk up to the temple at the top of the hill.

To be honest, we could have easily left at 4pm and still had time to arrive for the bats leaving as the spectacle goes on for over an hour! Sunset is around 6.15pm… we waited a while 🙈

We were taken to the bottom of the bat caves where we purchased our ticket to enter the temples at the top of Phnom Sampov.

We proceeded to walk up the steep hill and saw directions on the left to the killing caves. As we got closer a couple of girls arrived to show us the way. There were a few statues and small. Temples here as well as some shacks.  When we reached the entrance a lady asked us for some money to enter, which we declined.

There was a quite graphic set of statues showing the types of torture they endured. It was quite horrific.

We pressed on, not wanting to dwell on what we saw and entered the steps to the caves. You will need to bring a torch as it’s very dark.

The caves, as you can imagine, cast a grey shadow over you. You can actually feel the sadness! There are steps leading further into the cave and if you looked up you can see the gap where people were pushed to their death.  We were all very solemn as we walked around and I had an overwhelming sense of sadness. We didn’t stop long. I think we’d seen enough.

Moving on, we reached a shrine with a giant golden Buddha, which you pass on your way up to the top of the hill. From there you follow the path and walk higher.  It’s then that you start to hear and then see monkeys playing around the area. They didn’t bother us (we were always told never to look them in the eye).

There were some stunning views from the top and we took a moment to take it all in. There were also a number of temples here which we wandered around.

There wasn’t a huge amount to hold your interest and so we headed back down and arrived far too early for the bats! So we went for a walk and waited, and waited. If I’m honest it wasn’t as impressive as I’d been led to believe. Or maybe I was just bored of hanging around!!

 

Phare circus

We were advised of another event we should see while in Cambodia, the Phare circus.  It was actually suggested we see the one in Siem Reap, so when we heard the street kids started out here and it’s where the school is. We decided we should pay it a visit.

We had a wonderful excursion out last night to Phare Ponleu Selpak, also known as “phare circus”. It is a non-profit Cambodian association improving the lives of children, young adults, and their families.

You are told a story through dance, acrobatics and humour. It was light hearted, very funny & the moves were breathtaking! I mean, I can’t even touch my toes. Fantastic performance!! You must go and see it and help support this charity.

Old abandoned train station

As usual we strolled through the town looking for the odd quirk and Keith had read about an old abandoned station where the clock was set to 8.05.

So we went to explore. Time definitely seems to have stopped here, but life hasn’t. As we arrived we heard the squeals of children playing. There were men just sitting chatting, who have a little nod as the boys played on the tracks.

 

It wasn’t a wow moment, but it was certainly an insight to Cambodian life and the chances this country has been through. They are looking to resurrect the train lines as one from Phnom Penh to Thailand has recently reopened. I do hope it happens as it will create better links for this place. 

 

Places to eat

Espresso coffee house

We found a lovely little place to have breakfast. It looks fairly run down and dark. But actually the family running it were soooo lovely and generous! Plus the food was quite good and even better was the price!

 

Woodhouse

We headed in the direction of road no 2.5 as it was listed on Google as having a good number of eateries. We stopped in Woodhouse, although it’s not somewhere I would shout about. It didn’t have much atmosphere and the food was expensive for what it was.

In general the area appeared to have a few people milling around, and about the world looked like a nice place to stop for a drink

 

Waterfront dining

Those lovely people at just 6 backpacks have us another fab suggestion!  They told us there were some good eateries down near the waterfront. So on our next night we headed there. We walked past the colourful markets with their beautiful fruits (stopping to grab a few Rambutans)

We then reached a tented area which didn’t look like much, but there was about 5 ‘restaurants’ under there.  We had a look at the menus and chose one. The prices were really cheap, between $1 and $2 each!

The food was really good too and a friendly smiley face. There seemed to be quite a mix of westerners and locals in there. Great find and again a huge thank you to Sophie from just six backpacks for the recommendation!! ❤️

 

Conclusion

We enjoyed Battambang as it felt more rustic than Phnom Penh. With its dustier roads and smaller town, it felt like we were travelling again. We booked a minibus into and out of Battambang only a couple of days beforehand. It really is easy to get to and from here! But just bear in mind that the driving can be a little crazy!

The area has a number of activities which draw you to the area, as mentioned above. But you only need a couple of days here to tick off these before moving on.

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