Battambang is a Cambodia’s second-largest city. It is an elegant riverside town, home to some of the best preserved French period architecture in the country and to warm and friendly inhabitants. Currently, Battambang is back on the overland travel map and it makes a great base from which tourists can explore nearby temples and scenic villages. There is a very popular boat service connecting Battambang and Siem Reap, probably the most scenic river trip in the country.

Although it is a major city, Battambang is fairly compact and easily negotiable on foot. The centre of town is Psar Nat (Meeting Market) and all commercial activity and most of the city’s hotels are located within a few blocks of here. This central area is bordered to the west by the railway line and to the east by Stung Sangker (Sangker river). Across the river are several large properties serving as administrative centers for the large number of NGOs represented.

Much of Battambang’s charm lies in the network of old French shop houses nestled along much of riverbank. The Governor’s Residence is also a handsome legacy of the French presence in Cambodia.

More and more tourists coming in from many countries are doing a small loop through Siem Reap and Battambang and are giving Phnom Penh a miss. It is far easier to spend a few leisurely days in Battambang or in the Northwest of Cambodia instead of battling the big city. You can get a good feel for the country in laid-back Battambang.