Battambang is the temple complex Sampeu Phnon which stands on top of a rock outcrop, offering a spectacular view over the rice fields. You can visit the pagoda and the caves of Phnom Sampeu extermination camps that are now a place of pilgrimage. Going beneath the temple, you will find yourself in a cave where you can see a reclining Buddha and also the resting place of bones and skulls of Cambodians ve were tortured, killed and thrown through the skylight roof by the Khmer Rouge. This is another example of the horror of the Khmer Rouge regime and the suffering of the Cambodian people during the dictatorship.
Phnom Pros (Man Hill) and Phnom Srei (Woman Hill) are two opposing hills. There is a legend about them. A man and a woman wanted to get married and, according to Khmer custom, the man must go to her parents to ask their permission and blessing. As this man did not agree with these rules, he decided to organize a contest to see who could build a hill before dawn, the men or the women, to challenge tradition and bring about change. The women lit a bonfire to make the men think that the day had already dawned and the women continued to build. This is why Phnom Srei is higher than Phnom Pros and the men must keep asking permission to marry from the parents of the women.
One of the views that can be seen from Battamban, is Wat Ek Phnom, Phnom Sampeau and Phnom Banan and sine you can buy a ticket for all three sites for just $2. We rented a scooter to be able to move around the three sites on our own. The temple of Wat Ek Phnom is actually a ruined temple, beside which there is a pagoda and a really tall Buddha. All this just 20 km from Battambang. Compared with other Cambodian temples (especially after seeing Angkor) this is an interesting temple, but, at least for me, the most interesting thing is that on the way to the temple you can see how they make rice paper in the villages, dried to leave on bamboo panels. Locals also let it dry on thin slices of banana.
The name comes from the Sanskrit word apsarah, meaning celestial maiden. It is believed that this dance started in the ninth century in the temples of Angkor, and nearly disappeared in the 1970's under the violent Khmer Rouge regime. Today it has been revived, in part due to tourism, and there are Apsara schools in all the major cities. According to mythology, the apsarars were supernatural beings who appeared as beautiful maidens, who danced to entertain the gods and to honour heroes who had fallen in war. Today you can often see apsara shows in hotels and restaurants. The dancers wear silk clothes with elaborate headdresses.
As I told you when I was describing Beng Mealea, it you visit Angkor, it's worth taking a day to visit the temple, which is 60km from Siem Reap. Along the way, you can stop at this fishing village, which is a floating village (at least in the rainy season, when everything nearby is flooded, giving the area the name of "floating forest"). You'll find small motor boats where locals will offer you a tour of the canals - the "streets" of the village.
It is strange and fascinating to see the conditions in which these people live: crowded, with their hammocks and stores. There are also a few temples and/or Buddhist monasteries (more than you'd expect, at least 5, in this small town). The number of TV antennas that you'll see in windows and open doors really hits home. And as there's virtually no tourism here (we were the only ones in a long time, we were told), we became a point of distraction for the locals, who stopped to greet us or just stare at our clothes and cameras before going back to their chores.