A train without a particular destination…..just a bumpy ride up and down a 12km track passing beautiful and lush green Cambodian sceneries. One of the funniest things to do in the area of Battambang? Or just a show for tourists?
What is the Bamboo Train?
We are talking about the famous Bamboo Train here. When you are traveling in Cambodia many will for sure ask you about your plans to ride the Bamboo Train!
This train (although it is nothing more than a bamboo platform on two steel axles with wheels) is a surviving part of the former Cambodian railway network. No trains are running in Cambodia anymore and most tracks are left to be overgrown with weeds.
In the rural city of Battambang (which is actually the 2nd city of Cambodia) they are still using a short track of around 12kms. They indeed use it mainly for tourists although some locals also ride the track.
The trains are actually just flat bamboo beds. It feels like a flying carpet on wheels, although it is not as silent as a flying carpet. How fast? Well, around 30km/h.
This close to the ground you will for sure feel every bump in the track (and there are many!), but nothing to worry about. Every train has a driver sitting at the back, making sure the engine keeps on running.
Should you hop on the train or not? Well, we loved it! You pay a couple of dollars to an “official tourist policeman” who will appoint one of the drivers to you and off you go! It’s an unique experience…
How to pass?
The best are the moments when you approach another train arriving from the opposite direction. It’s a single track so how to pass?
Well, it’s very simple. The driver with the lowest weight has to dismantle his train and get it off the track! After the other train has passed, the axles with the wheels are put back on track. The bamboo platform is placed back on the wheels and off you go again!
Let’s watch a short video of our trip and see how certainly our kids enjoyed the ride!
The end of the track
It is indeed quite touristy….at the end of the track there are souvenir shops and you can buy drinks and snacks. Buy your own Bamboo Train T-shirt!
You have nowhere to go once you arrive here, although there is a small brick factory that you can visit. Two ladies were happy to give us a tour. After the tour we bought two bottles of Coca Cola and that was enough to return the favor.
After hanging around for half an hour we searched our driver, found her, and she immediately prepared our flying carpet for the return trip. You can understand the procedure: lift the bamboo carriage off the track and turn it around. See me helping as a true gentleman!!
Back and forth, without actually reaching a new destination. Just watching some cows on the track, enjoy the scenery and have fun. It’s all about the experience….you in fabulous Cambodia!
Sadly, rumour has it that the Bamboo Trains will soon stop to exist. There are plans to upgrade the rail line to Phnom Penh again….but until then, go and ride the Bamboo Train!
Battambang has far more to offer than the Bamboo train alone. On this blog you will soon read more about this laid-back city with its colonial houses. In the meantime you can read about our visit to the Killing Fields South of Phnom Penh.
Update November 2017: The Bamboo train has been closed by the government. The government intends to revitalize Cambodia’s railways to the expense of the Bamboo train.