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The second largest city in Cambodia, Battambang is located in a rich and fertile plain. The Sangker River flows through the town centre, which is filled with interesting, if dilapidated, colonial architecture. A very relaxed place to visit Battambang offers access to numerous pre-Angkorian and Angkorian sites and some of the most interesting are the 7th century Wat Toul Baset, 11th century Wat Ek and 10th century Phnom Banon which sits on the top of a hill and affords great views of the surrounding countryside.
A popular excursion from Battambang to see rural Cambodian lifestyles is a ride on the Bamboo Train. The train comprises of a simple bamboo platform on 4 wheels with a small motor, and was created by local villagers to facilitate the transportation of goods. The train travels 8km from one village to the next through beautiful landscape and rice paddies.
A popular mode of transport to get to Battambang from Siem Reap is by boat across Lake Tonle Sap, a fascinating journey of around 7 hours. When this is not possible during the dry season from February to August this journey can be done by road, stopping off for a visit to the Artisans d'Angkor silk weaving project in Puok. This is a working silk farm where it is possible to learn about the cultivation of mulberry trees and the production of silk. Artisans d'Angkor was established to revitalise the Cambodian handicraft industry and offers skills training and employment opportunities for young disadvantaged Cambodians.
Battambang is located around 5 hours by road from Phnom Penh and a popular stop en route is at town of Kompong Luong, the largest floating community on the Tonle Sap Lake with almost 10,000 inhabitants. Everything floats on water, including the schools, health clinic, shops and petrol station. Explore the town by boat to get a glimpse of the day to day lifestyles in a floating town untouched by mass tourism.