By Jennifer Chen
November 21, 2011

Withthe government aiming to fix Cambodia’sdilapidated railway system by 2013, Battambang, the country’s second biggestcity, is poised to become the next big destination. Located near the Thaiborder, the town has not been touched by the development frenzy seen in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap,and along the southern coast.

Itis still home to dozens of charming French colonial villas and Chinese-styleshophouses, some of which are being converted into small hotels. A couple ofrecent examples: La Villa, alemon-hued 1930’s villa stuffed with seven antique-filled suites, and Ma Maison, another villa-turned-hotel. And, there’s plenty to see in thearea, including some interesting temples and Phnom Banan, an Angkor-era ruinset on a mountainside outside of town. Backpackers are already flocking here; Ireckon it is only a matter of time before a critical mass of French expatsstarts opening up more boutique hotels and cafés, as happened in Siem Reap,Phnom Penh, and Luang Prabang.

JenniferChen is Travel+ Leisure's Asia correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter at xiaochen6.