Battambang is Cambodia’s second largest city. It isn’t like the hotel stuffed Siem Reap and anything like the capitol Phnom Penh.
Few tourists seem to head to Battambang but you shouldn’t skip on fish fights, crocodiles and a bamboo train ride !
If you want to get Cambodia then you must see it’s countryside. A great way to discover this is to head to the outskirts of Battambang. I had the opportunity to stay with Sambat and his family on the countryside Tapon village . Sambat rented motorbikes with drivers for our group because it would be the best way to discover the Cambodian countryside.
Sitting on the back of that motorbike riding through the rice fields made me feel free. The wind blowing in my hair, the astonishing views …
One doesn’t need to be on a boat to feel like the king of the world!
Yet feeling like a king, I got to enrich myself by learning about every day life in Cambodia. It certainly broadened my perspective on life.
Visiting a local school made me realize that not much of the educational system is left here – teachers were brutally killed during the Kmer Rouge genocide in the ’70’s- and everything has to be built from the ground up again. Kids here don’t even have have paper and pens.
So if you visit, bring a present because they really need it!
Another great way to find out more about Cambodia was by visiting people who were on their day job. Rice is still the main source of income in the country, so I met a lot of people that make rice derivatives such as rice noodles, rice paper for spring rolls, sticky rice (a local desert) and rice wine. A lot of kids are still being kept from school in order to help in the family business.
But there a also a few uncommon ways to make a living in Battambang.
One of the illegal activities is organizing fish fights. It’s a bit like a cock fight or dog fight but with… fish. It sounds a bit weird but the fish are actually trained to attack each other as soon as they are placed in one bowl. Last fish standing swimming wins so place your bet !
You can even find crocodile farms in Battambang. The security is a bit on the low side though. So don’t fall in a crocodile pit. They only get food every month or so…
Another great way to see the countryside is by heading up to the old railroad. I exchanged my motorbike for a bamboo train (norry) ride, Indiana Jones style. The railroad was (is?) used to transport goods but takes on tourists too . Remember the ground rule though: There is only one rail, so look out for trains coming from the other direction. When you meet one, the norry with the most people and goods on it can continue, the other one needs to disassemble!
Finally ride up to the killing caves and go for a small hike up the mountain. The view and temples up there are worth it!
If you saw all of this you’ll be left with a great day but also a lot to think about.
So before heading off again, fuel up by grabbing and tasting the local speciality: a bag of crickets.