Cambodia’s hidden gem
Battambang is often skipped by Southeast Asia backpackers, which gives it a more deserted feel than the popular destinations in the South. In low season, it might even be too quiet, with most bars and restaurants shutting down. Nevertheless, Battambang offers a few unique activities.
The city itself has not much to offer except a market and riverside park. However, the local Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus, hosted by disadvantaged youth, is worth a visit. For 10$ you’ll be able to enjoy an incredible show combining dancers, acrobats, artists and musicians. The NGO is helping the best performers to enter international circus schools with the ultimate goal of joining the Cirque du soleil. The energy and ambition of those kids will blow your mind and is well worth the money.
Go there now or it’ll be too late
Battambang’s countryside can be easily explored by shared tuktuk or scooter. Make sure to ride the legendary bamboo train which is about to disappear. The bumpy ride (5$ per person) will take you through lush landscapes and local villages with speeds up to 50km/h.
Monkeys, bats and sunset views
Next stop is a mountain, home to the Killing Cave of Phnom Samphou, and the Bat Cave. Halfway up the mountain, the Killing Cave still houses the remains of the Khmer Rouge genocide. Local kids will be happy to show you around…unasked. Continue the hike up the mountain and you’ll be rewarded with pristine views over Battambang’s countryside. Beware of the monkeys though, as they are just waiting to steal your camera or food supply. Once you descend the 500 steps back down, the Bat Cave offers an amazing spectacle at around 5pm each day – thousands and thousands of bats leave the cave as dusk falls to go hunting in the surrounding fields.
Next: Lost city of Angkor Wat