After travelling through Northeast Cambodia from Phnom Penh to Mondulkiri, this time Mark Bibby Jackson guides you along the journey from Phnom Penh to Battambang – and beyond.
This road trip is one of the simplest in Cambodia while at the same time offering lots of opportunities for the more adventurous traveller to head off the beaten track.
Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang Province
Initially head along national road 5 from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang province. On the way you will pass Oudong Temple, the former capital of Cambodia. This really is a wonderful place. Climb the hill and visit the pagoda at the top, enjoying the spectacular views down to the flat landscape below – best enjoyed in the rainy season.
From here you continue along the highway to Kampong Chhnang (Krong Kampong Chhnang). This is one of my favourite towns in Cambodia. The market is full of life, and the floating village provides a wonderful insight into life on the Tonle Sap – hire a local boat.
You can do this part of the trip as a day-trip from Phnom Penh. In which case, I suggest you go first to Kampong Chhnang and then head back to Oudong, as the sunset from the top of the mountain makes for spectacular photography.
Kampong Chhnang Province to Pursat Province
Alternatively, keep on travelling along national road 5 and you will end up in the town of Pursat (Krong Pursat) the capital of Pursat Province.
You can easily make the journey from Phnom Penh to Pursat in a day, depending on how many stops you take along the way. If you decide to break up your journey from Phnom Penh to Battambang here then we suggest you stay at the Pursat Riverside Hotel & Spa, as there are limited accommodation options in the town. If you do stay then make sure you visit Kampong Luong, one of the largest floating villages on the Tonle Sap, as well as Veal Pagoda with its impressive Buddha statue. The spectacular Chrok La Eang waterfall, one of the best waterfalls in Cambodia, can be visited as a trip from either Pursat or Kampong Chhnang.
From here you really have two options – either you continue along national road 5 from Pursat to Battambang, or you take the road less travelled (national road 55) into the Cardamom Mountains.
The Road Less Travelled
Along the latter route you can see the Pursat River Rapids. Then continue up the mountain road over Phnom 1500 to Thma Da Waterfall. Eventually, you will descend to the Meteuk Thmda River near to the Thai border, where you can have a great dip – in the river not the border.
Continuing your adventure you can continue towards Tatai, with its wonderful waterfall and great Canvas & Orchids retreat – you need to back track a little towards Pursat along national road 55 – before picking up the coast road from Koh Kong to Kampot via Sihanoukville (the third of our road trips through Cambodia).
Pursat Province to Battambang
However, on this trip we will stick to national road 5, to continue from Pursat to Battambang.
On the way you will pass an endless succession of rice fields – best in the wet season – with the occasional sugar palm tree to serve as some contrast. This is the real Cambodian landscape.
At Battambang you can hang around by the river, take the bamboo train, or hire a guide and visit some of the surrounding countryside and villages – popping in on the odd pagoda or two. Also, check out the local arts scene as the city has a proud cultural heritage.
Heading out of town you can visit Phnom Sampeau, about 30 kilometres from Battambang, with its pagoda and caves. This you could combine with a trip to Wat Banan a hilltop temple about 25 kilometres from town.
Although that concludes our road trip from Phnom Penh to Battambang, if you don’t wish to return on the same road all the way to Phnom Penh, you can always double back to Pursat, and take the road less travelled indicated above. Alternatively, you can go the long way around the Tonle Sap to Siem Reap, continuing on national road 5 until its junction with national road 6 which leads you to Temple Town.
The really adventurous can continue up from Siem Reap on Route 66 to the town of Anlong Veng – another of my Cambodian favourites – and from there travel to the magnificent Preah Vihear temple. If time is no worry then why not carry on from Preah Vihear to Stung Treng via national roads 62 and 64, to pick up the Northeast Cambodia loop. Now that really would be a Cambodian road trip to remember,
To help you plan your route we suggest you have a look at our Cambodia Map.
Main image courtesy of Nathan Horton Photograph.