Cambodia’s second largest city and a provincial capital, Battambang lies a short distance southwest of the Tonlé Sap Lake. Sitting by the Stung Sangker and surrounded by beautiful, verdant countryside, the city has been under Thai influence for much of its history and was returned to Cambodia only in 1907.
The impact of the French Colonial administration on the city is evident from the number of Colonial villas and shophouses still surviving today, hidden down side streets and by the riverside. In the center of town stands Psar Nath, a sprawling mustard-hued Art Deco market that was built in 1936 and is well worth a visit. The most charming area of the city is by the river, south of this bustling market. The Battambang Provincial Museum located here houses an eclectic Angkorian and pre-Angkorian collection of statuary, pottery, and traditional musical instruments. Battambang is only now finding an identity as a tourist destination, with a number of excellent cafés and Colonial- style hotels starting to open up. The natural beauty of the rural countryside surrounding the city must not be missed
Located 1 mile (2 km) north- west of the city, Phare Ponleu Selpak is a multi-arts center for orphans and disadvantaged children. A visit to its circus school offers a glimpse into the salvaged lives of these children, many of whom become international per- formers with the troupe. Evening performances take place five times a week.