Ten temples in Battambang have been given “model” status to draw on the increasing numbers of tourists visiting the northwestern province, as the bid to have the provincial capital included as a Unesco cultural and historical heritage city is being prepared for submission.
Despite the draw of neighbouring Siem Reap province, with its world famous Angkor Wat temple complex, and Preah Sihanouk’s beaches, visitors to Battambang continue to increase, Battambang Provincial Hall spokesman Chhay Matinal said.
“During the three days of Khmer New Year in April, the number of national and international tourists who visited Battambang increased to more than 1.3 million, while Siem Reap province drew only 1.2 million,” he said.
The 10 pagodas selected were chosen for their historic importance – having to be at least 100 years old – and beauty.
Matinal said Wat Samrong Khnong – which having been built in 1707 is the oldest temple selected – Wat Sangke (Intrea Thipadei Thearam), Wat Kandal, Wat Pothiveal and Wat Piphi Thearam had been chosen as model pagodas.
Also picked were Wat Keo (Mony Rathanaram), the second oldest, built in 1772, Wat Kampheng, Wat Kor, Wat Damrei Sar and Wat Chhoeu Khmao.
He said the 10 model pagodas had been renovated and repainted.
Early last year, tour guides were posted at the pagodas by the provincial department of tourism so that national and international tourists could be talked through on their rich history and the significance of their carvings.
“These pagodas have significantly contributed to attracting national and international tourists to visit Battambang, and the number is increasing rapidly as the province continues not to lose tourists to other popular destinations in Cambodia,” Matinal said.
Uch Umphiny Sara, the director of the Battambang provincial department of tourism, said the province had many attractions to draw in tourists, including ancient temples, pagodas that were hundreds of years old, French colonial-era buildings and the Kamping Puoy reservoir.
Battambang was also home to areas of great natural beauty, such as the Prek Toal Ecotourism Site, where seven species of waterbird can be found, Sek Sork and Kanghat waterfalls, Bopata valley and One Thousand Islands.
“Year-on-year, the number of national and international tourists visiting Battambang province has increased remarkably, especially during Khmer New Year,” Umphiny Sara said.
Tourist numbers to the province almost doubled to more than 1.3 million national and international guests over Khmer New Year in April, while only some 700,000 visited the previous year.
Kim Sophorn, the director of the Battambang provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts, told The Post on Thursday that a proposal to Unesco to have Battambang town included as a cultural and historical heritage city is to be submitted.
“If we talk about buildings from the French colonial-era and before, Battambang town has the most, some of which are more than a hundred years old."
“The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has been putting together documents to be submitted to Unesco to have Battambang town listed as a world heritage cultural and historical city,” he said.