Siem Reap Vistior Guide 59th

Battambang City is full of wonderful colonial-era architecture and historic old pagodas, and the sur- rounding countryside harbors not only Angkorian-era ruins and historic pagodas but also offers some of the most picturesque rice paddy and village scenery in the country set just outside the city. The ride to get to places like Ek Phnom and Phnom Banan pass through some beautiful rural Cambodian countryside. Bamboo Train what to see and do battambang 90 railroad tracks, picking up and dropping off passen- gers, cargo and animals along the way. When it meets another bamboo train running in the opposite direction, it can be disassembled and taken off the rails in a minute or two, allowing the other to pass. The bamboo train near the city seems to be catering as much to tourists as locals these days, but is still the real deal and a unique experience. They now charge foreigners upwards of $5/pax. Circus The Phare Ponleu Selpak NGO gives Cambodian children from disadvantaged families the opportunity to “access culture via different artistic activities” including music, drawing, drama, dance and circus. Guided visits available in the mornings and after- noons for $5. Regularly scheduled traditional Cambodian circus performances in the evenings (exhibition at 6:15PM, show at 7:00PM) for $14. Call 077-554413 for schedule. Cambodian restaurant Nary Kitchen offers morning and evening cooking classes every day. Classes are conducted by Mrs. Nary and her husband Toot, who start off each class with a market tour to learn about local produce. Back at the restaurant you'll then learn to cook four traditional Cambodian dishes. Once you've finished, sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor for lunch or dinner. Vegetarian options are avail- able, and all students will go home with the recipes for the dishes that they prepared. At only $10 per per- son, the class is great value. Tel: 012-763950 Cooking Classes The bamboo train is a unique and creative form of ad-hoc trans- portation. It consists of a small motorcycle engine-powered bam- boo cart that rides the

dies that stretch to the horizon. You’ll see plenty of countryside on the way to any of the nearby Angkorian-era ruins. On the way, check out some of the local products in the making - rice paper, noo- dles and the fishpaste market. It’s all very tradition- al, if not a bit unhygienic and smelly, but always fas- cinating and very photogenic. Ek Phnom

About 45 minutes from Battambang, is an sub- stantial early-11 th centu- ry Angkorian-era tem- ple ruin built as a Hindu temple under the ruler Suryavarman I. The

temple is in rough condition, consisting of prasats on a platform with some Hindu themed carvings in pretty good condition. Wat Ek Phnom, a modern Buddhist pagoda, sits picturesquely next to the ruin and a small lake. The river road drive to Ek Phnom from Battambang passes through some absolutely beautiful country- side, along a palm lined Stung Sangker river and through several small villages. Phnom Banan

Phnom Banan is a mountaintop, mid-11 th century Angkorian-era ruin consisting of five prasats (towers) arranged in the quin- cunx (five-pointed)

form reminiscent of Angkor Wat. The temple was built by the Khmer ruler Udayadityavarman II, son of Suryavarman I, the king who built the temple at Ek Phnom. Several lintel carvings are in good condi- tion. The mountaintop is a peaceful location with a sweeping view of the surrounding area. There is a small cave nearby known as L’Ang But Meas . A very old (150 years+) active pagoda at the base of the mountain. As both are south of Battambang City, the trip to Phnom Banan is often combined with a stop at Phnom Sampeou. Pagodas

Battambang town and the surrounding coun- tryside are rich with beautiful old pagodas, some of them hundreds of years old, highly respected and display-

Countryside Tour The rural countryside outside of Battambang is

ing some very unique art and architecture. There are nine pagodas in Battambang town alone. In town, Wat Kandal displays some of the most inter- esting architecture and vihear paintings. Wat Tahm Rei Saw , built in 1903, is one of those rare Cambodian wats to display paintings of the Hindu epic Reamker.

NatGeo -picturesque. Within just a few kilo- meters of town, the countryside turns to small villages with stilted houses and rice pad-

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