Battambang is somewhat of an ode to French colonialism. The city lies in the heart of the Northwest and until the war years it was the leading rice-producing province of the country. The 100,000-person town offers not only one of the best preserved examples of the French Colonial era, but also the small-town feel you expect to encounter in Cambodia as a rule. The true bonus however is the village life that is a mere stone’s throw away, be it by motorcycle, jeep or boat. The combined effect makes Battambang well worth the detour it requires to visit.
For centuries, Battambang was part of Siam and was used as its eastern commercial hub. The French have left a strong mark on the town's architecture, resulting in a pleasing colonial effect. The town is the gateway between Thailand and Phnom Penh but still retains a sleepy atmosphere not conducive to people looking for nightlife and fine dining.
Rather, people use the town as a base for visiting the nearby temples of Phnom Banon and Wat Ek Phnom. Some 293 kilometres from Phnom Penh, Battambang is in the heart of Cambodia's 'rice bowl' and even though it is Cambodia's second-largest city it has a marked rural feel to it.