Battambang is about a 3 hour drive from Siem Reap and while SR is the smaller of the two, you wouldn’t know it by the amount of tourists that flock to Angkor City. So, is Battambang worth the visit? I think so, but it depends what you are looking for.
Even though Battambang is Cambodia’s second largest city, it feels like a small one. It’s got funky architecture, a walkable downtown area complete with riverside walk and park. Good eats, art galleries and a much less touristed vibe. Basically, it’s a place where you’d want to raise your kids.
And my god it’s not nearly has dusty as Siem Reap. So, if that sounds like something you’d want to check out, here’s a great way.
We chose Mekong Express (after a bit of research) which is located on 14 Sivatha Road (spelled Siwatha on Mekong’s website). Now, you will quickly learn that street numbers in Cambodia don’t mean a thing and do not appear to go in chronological order (yea!). A lot of information on the web regarding SE Asia becomes quickly out of date, too. So, aren’t you glad expats like me are here? Hmmm?
Find Canadia Bank, that massive structure on the corner of Hospital Street and Sivatha. (Oh, you know, Hospital Street, where all the “happy pizza” restaurants are located. Yeah, I thought so.) Then continue on Sivatha away from Pub Street/Old Market. On the same side as the bank you will see Mekong Express located next to the bright yellow and red DSL office. It’s also across from Asia Market.
And despite what is said on Mekong Express’ website, there are two mini-buses that go from SR to Batt, 8am and 2pm and vice versa. We took the 8am to Batt and the 2pm from Batt back to SR. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter which side of the bus you pick, both the AB and CD seats get sun because of the directions the bus travels. Also, don’t sit in the first row seats unless you loathe leg room.
Fortunately, you can pick your seats when you buy your tickets (which are great for those of us who get a touch of the damn motion sickness). The roads aren’t bad though, just a little bumpy, but slow going because it’s a two lane road the entire way, passing through farm lands (tractors) and towns (school kids on bicycles). The driver was safe and since I’ve lived in SE Asia for 6 years, I must say, I was impressed.
There are no toilets on the bus, but you stop halfway at Serei Sophorn at the Mekong Express office. With only two toilets, you might want to hustle if you are having an emergency. Bring your own tissue.
Don’t expect a snack. They provide a bottle of water and a wet nap. But if the hunger pangs sneak up on you there is a gas station across the street. We’ll wait for you, but hurry up, alright?
We spent 3 days in Batt and bought our tickets back to SR the day before with no glitches. Their office is located (north of) next to the wet market or Psah Nath and I’m fairly confident you’ll find it again on Road 3. After all, if a directionally-challenged person like myself can do it, so can you. Tickets are $6 both ways.