Travel

Riding the Bamboo Train

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File this one under “Didn’t know this existed, but a MUST DO if in Battambang, Cambodia”

Battambang, Cambodia is the second most populous city in Cambodia behind well known frontrunner Phnom Penh. It lies about halfway between Phnom Penh and Bangkok, making it an obvious choice for a stopover.

It was in the fabulous 1920s Shanghai themed cocktail bar Miss Wong  where I first heard about how lovely Battambang was (a popular vacation spot for locals looking for a romantic getaway) and about the curious “bamboo train.”

Well I also heard about the bamboo train from my driver, and to be honest the history is a bit fuzzy. The best I can gather is that there was originally a train linking Battambang with Phnom Penh, and that the train went out of commission due to destruction, either from the Khmer Rouge, or who knows what. Parts of the track are still intact, however, so the locals hooked up a bamboo pallet with a lawnmower engine, and ta-da! Bamboo train! You pay $10 per train, hop onto a flimsy bit of bamboo and go whizzing across the countryside. It’s exhilarating.

It seems to be mostly for tourists, although I did encounter a group of locals moving moving their motos and tons of food.

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My driver revving up the engine.

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There’s only one track, so every time two bamboo trains meet, somebody’s gotta get off. They dismantle the entire thing, the people pass, then the crew sets up the train again. This happened to me about five times on my trip!

Here’s video I took on my phone when I thought we were going to run over some locals:

Shit, again??

The countryside

At the end of the line there’s a little village where you can chill out and wait for your return trip. I made friends with one of the kids, and he took me to the rice factory to show me how they clean and process rice.

All in all, this is a MUST DO if you’re ever in town, especially as I’ve heard rumors that the train might close down for safety reasons.

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