Travel Report: Battambang Bamboo Train, Cambodia.
The Battambang Bamboo Train.
December 2015. I’m so glad I set aside a couple of days for Battambang during my first cross-country adventure in Cambodia. Having thoroughly enjoyed the mind blowing parade of bats at Phnom Sampeau Mountain, it was now time for one of the world’s most unique rail journeys!
Yup, for just $5 of your hard earned cash one can take a ride on the highly singular Battambang Bamboo Train. This bumpy, thrilling twenty minute journey begins from O Dambong Village and rattles to a stop in the tiny settlement of Sra Lav.
The so-called trains are little more than three metre wooden frames powered by a 6HP gasoline engine. Cranking down the single-track line at fifteen kilometres an hour is actually far more exciting than you’d think. Especially as our driver took great delight in making the journey as twisty and crunching as possible.
The genius part of the network is the amusing solution to what happens when a train is coming right at you from the other direction. Basically, one of the vehicles has to stop. The driver then asks everyone to get off, before disassembling the train and hauling it to the side of the track.
Battambang Bamboo Train.
I loved the Battambang Bamboo Train! In addition to being fun and quirky, our driver was really friendly and the lush countryside of rural Battambang is a joy to behold.
In fact, as we whizzed along the track, there were farmer’s fields, residential shacks, rickety wooden bridges and locals fishing in the river.
The village of Sra Lav turned out to be little more than a dozen tacky shops manned by a frenzied collection of in-your-face locals. They descended upon us the moment we stepped off the train, with desperate pleas for us to buy something… anything!
There were teddy bears, snow globes and Hawaiian shirts. Key rings, faded postcards and an inappropriate number of woollen scarves. You name it we didn’t want it! The attention was relentless from everyone except the woman pictured above, who simply grinned as we passed.
We also had a gaggle of children to contend with. The girls were brutal, vociferously demanding money. When we refused to comply, they stomped their feet and hissed at us. Nevertheless, I did take a shine to the boy who carefully set about crafting a handmade grasshopper from the leaf of a nearby plant.
“It’s beautiful!” he claimed, matter-of-factly. “And very cheap!”
Although the grasshopper was kinda cool, I just didn’t have any use for it. And seriously doubted whether it would survive the return leg on the train. Finally, I agreed to pay him $1 for the courtesy of a photograph. He seemed more than content with this.
My $1 charity act got me into BIG trouble with the girls. “You are bad man!!!” one of them screamed in a fit of jealousy. Consequently, I told Angry Girl 1 I’d also give her a dollar for a photo. She quickly agreed. However, just as Wonderboy hit click, Angry Girl 2 threw her arm in front of the lens in a petulant act of sabotage.
Luckily, we managed to escape Sra Lav alive! We were over halfway back to O Dambong when we saw another train on the line. “Ah bollocks!” exclaimed Wonderboy, “it’s our turn to disembark”.
For more on my time here check out my other articles on Battambang.
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Nice pics I was a lot in Vietnam and once in Buôn Ma Thuột almost made it across the border to Cambodia but did not;;; oh well can’t see them all! Cheers
Ha ha there’s still time! And yeah, Vietnam is great!
What an exciting little train ride Leighton. Ive never heard of anywhere else quite like that, fascinating!
Cheers Marion! It’s one of my favourite memories from that first Cambodia trip.
I heard that this train is now shut down. Looks like it would’ve been fun!
I think the service has shut down and reopened several times in recent years for a host of reasons. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it reborn again once tourists begin returning to Cambodia in larger numbers! Thanks for reading.
Really cool trip! I like your off-the beaten-path adventures.
Cheers guys! Plenty more of those coming up from across Cambodia over the next few weeks.
Looks like a fun ride but how does a train driver make the trip “twisty and crunching?” Doesn’t it have to stay on the tracks?
He was deliberately rocking the train from side to side with his movements and accelerating over the bumpy parts of the tracks!
That explains it. I forgot how small and light weight you said they were. Duh!
Such fantastic authentic photography Leighton.
Thanks, I’ve worked a bit on these ones!
It’s a good thing that not all trains are like that.
Yeah, I’m trying to imagine a cross country India trip on one of these babies!
To take a train ride is one thing, but to have it dissembled in the middle of it?? That’s wild. I had a similar train ride in Costa Rica, although that train couldn’t be dissembled whatsoever. Those children are adorable, but it devastates me that they’ve been taught to be aggressive in order to get money, because of poverty. I had a similar situation in Morocco with the children there, and it’s a glimpse into the reality of tourism and what it takes to earn a living with it. Thanks for sharing!
You’re right about those kids. I was (less so now I think) a real sucker for getting drawn into that and trying to keep everyone happy. In this particular situation two of the three kids were at least trying to have a bit of fun with it, as opposed to Angry Girl 2. With the shutdown of international tourism last year I wonder what happened to them. The Costa Rica train sounds cool, where was that?
I honestly don’t know the name of the Costa Rica train, nor exactly where it is. I only know that we docked in Puntarenas and took a coach over to the train, where we rode it. Only went perhaps less than 15 km/hr, but it was quite the experience!
This looks like quite the adventure and a good way to see the country side.
Thanks for reading guys!
What a cool way to explore! Thanks for sharing 🙂
We are really hoping our November Cambodia trip goes ahead. Battambang is on the itinerary 🙂
Really hope you get there too! Over the next few months I’m posting on Sihanoukville, Koh Rong and Kampot and Kep.
Amazing, I’ll be reading them all with interest. I’ll live vicariously through you lol! 🙂
… until November!
We were planning on taking the bamboo train, but unfortunately our stomachs prevented us from leaving the hotel room. Looks like fun, even though you are a ‘bad man’ 🙂
Ha ha thanks guys!
Sounds like a true adventure 😂
On another note, I just nominated you for the Outstanding Blogger Award. I have grown to love your blog over the last couple of months. I hope that you accept this nomination and look forward to reading your answers 💕
Oh that’s very kind of you, thank you very much! I will try to fit in a reply article at some point in the next few weeks. Thanks again!
My pleasure, I am very much looking forward to your answers 😇
Beautiful captures, a lovely train ride and that was quite an escape there Leighton!
Thanks for reading!