Battambang Villages To Become Tourist Sites

Tourist destinations are not born, they are made, a group of Eu­ropean and Cambodian officials have decided, and they say the making of three Battambang pro­vince villages as tourist sites is at last nearing completion. 

The villages in Battambang district, which remain steeped in Cam­bodia’s agrarian traditions, with century-old houses lining the Sangke river and oxen plowing rice fields, are scheduled to open for business officially as tou­rist sites in June or July, officials said recently.

Villagers will take tourists on ox-cart rides, open souvenir shops and exhibit their homes, said Wat Kor commune chief Sok Chhoeuk.

“The villagers in the three villages have lived for generations with­out many newcomers,” said Bat­tambang District Governor Uy Ry, whose district encompasses the villages, Wat Kor, Kom­pong Seima and Khsach Poy.

Khsach Poy villagers have tra­di­tionally grown oranges and other fruit, while in Kompong Sei­ma rice and vegetables are grown without artificial fertilizers, Uy Ry said. The three villages are also close to Banan district’s Banan tem­ple and the Komping Puoy re­ser­voir, built under the Khmer Rouge.

Local officials have been cooperating on the villages since 2004 with European organizations as­sembled by the Asia Urbs program, part of the European aid agen­cy EuropeAid, according to Asia Urbs project director Ruth Gruber.

Local administrators lack the ex­pertise necessary to manage tourism, she said, and have been learn­ing budget control and planning as well as tourism promotion.

Asia Urbs hopes to repeat the pro­ject in Siem Reap province’s Siem Reap district, she added.

“It’s not so important to have the most beautiful villages,” said Gru­ber. Most important is to in­still administrative know-how in the local government so that it can be reproduced elsewhere in Cambodia, she said, adding that one Battambang district official re­cently suggested opening a rice museum to showcase the pro­vince’s most famous product.

Battambang District Deputy Gov­ernor Tea Mony said partici­pa­tion from local villagers had been good, adding that roads lead­ing to the villages will be clean­ed on May 5 in preparation for the project.

Villagers will also be required to clean their homes, said Wat Kor commune chief Sok Chho­euk, while Tea Mony added that villagers will also be trained to greet tourists.

Wat Kor villager Bun Roeung, 65, said her 12-by-25-meter deco­ra­tively carved stilt house was built by her grandfather in 1920 and was often photographed by passing foreigners.

“They were very surprised when they saw the style of my home,” she said.

 

 

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