I've been living and volunteering in Battambang for about a month now and went on an amazing bicycle tour last week with Soksabike!
Since I live here and work both in the city and in a village close by, I do not feel like much of a tourist and am hesitant to get on a "touristy" tour. This bicycle was perfect for getting a little off the beaten track, learning a lot, and discovering delicious local cuisine.
It's not a particularly difficult ride (completely flat), but if you're not a biker, I'd ask the guides to take it slow. It's always hot in Battambang so bring water, drink water, buy water, and drink more water.
You start off in Battambang and navigating yourself out of the city with chaotic traffic is an thrilling experience-to say the least. My bike chain actually came off as I crossed a bridge and the guide in the back stopped traffic and helped me put it back on quickly.
In riding through the country on both dirt and paved roads, the tour stopped at a bunch of families' homes where I discovered how rice paper and rice noodles are made, how oyster mushrooms are grown, how prahok (fermented fish paste) is stored, how bamboo sticky rice cakes (anything sweet here is called a cake) are cooked and continually rotated--less then burn. I drank delicious sweet coconut water and tasted local Khmer cuisine (including a little prahok!).
Not only are the places I stopped worthwhile, but the guides were really great. I was talking quite a bit with Chetra, one of the guides, who is in university and who is quite bright. He knows a lot about farming because was raised on a farm and had to quit school for a couple of years to help his family earn enough money to eat. Now, he is living in Battambang in order to continue his education.
The last stop on the tour is not a food destination. We stopped at a memorial to the victims of the Khmer Rouge. Chetra told us about his mother's experience as a child under Pol Pot's regime. Personal stories such as his family's are humbling and grounding. Sorry to end the post on such a depressing note, because it was a whole lot of fun. I highly recommend it.
Also, I took a cooking course a few days ago at The Smoking Pot. Vannak, the restaurant's proprietor and master chef, is terrific! His English, especially related to food jargon, is probably better than native-English speakers. He just opened up a hostel and bar and the food is delicious! He catered to my friend's vegetarian diet as well (although I recommend the fish and meat).
You can make a reservation for Soksa Bike tours through the Smoking Pot and some other places (?) in town as well.
* I went on a Saturday. Since the local guides are in University, I think there are only weekend tours available. Not sure....
#1 justanotherhiker has been a member since 18/6/2010. Posts: 2