Well, thanks to some friends in Bangkok, I heard about this little train trip adventure and got to try it out today! I’m in Battambang, Cambodia and went barrelling down the railroad tracks on a bamboo train today. Definitely no points for health and safety, this little operation is super cute, ingenious, and fun! And surprisingly loud and FAST!!!
The Bamboo Train is about 8km outside of Battambang and starts from O Dambong on a 20 minute journey to a tiny station in O Sra Lav. Spend twenty minutes at O Sta Lav then return back for another twenty mins. Reaching between 30 and 40km/hr, the old rickety, single-“car” trains barrel down a single track through fields in the gorgeous Cambodian countryside. Due to the one rail system, the trains are simple and easily assembled. There are just three parts: two sets of wheels that look like Dumbbells and a bamboo platform with the engine attached. The back set of wheels has a belt which attaches to the engine. So, if you meet a train going in the opposite direction, the rule is the train with the least cargo/people disassemble. Both drivers dis- and re-assemble the smaller car and then off both trains go! Apparently in the past, these simple trains have been used to go even long distances like ten hours to Phnom Pen and carry rice and even cows.
It was a great experience and I feel privileged I got to try it out. Met a wonderful Singaporean woman named Jess who travelled the Bamboo Train with me… Two passengers. We met up with four other trains on our little journey: two trains on the way there (one train had 9 passengers, the other 7 on the way there and on the return trip there were five and three passengers)and two on the way back! Our driver got a workout, that’s for sure! I took earplugs as I had heard it is noisy and there is a twenty minute rest at the O Sra Lav with drinks, sarongs and Tshirts for sale. There is also a tiny, old brick factory which is good to explore on your short stop. Jess and I spoke with one of the villagers, an elderly gentleman who was a General in the army fighting against the Khmer Rouge, he had studied French in France and English as well many years ago. His beautiful wife had been injured quite badly by the Khmer Rouge, which we were told about after noticing all the portraits and photographs showed her in dark sunglasses. The old cut and damage to her eye looks terrible. Terrible history here in Cambodia. The people have experienced genocide, war and terror, for sure.
Anyway, totally recommend this little touristy side adventure. At $5 USD plus a suggested tip for your train driver, it’s a bit costly but worth it for the bumpy little train journey! Unique adventure today, I’d say.