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 on the bamboo train track?
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 bamboo train 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!
ALSO READ: 5 ESSENTIAL THINGS TO DO IN BATTAMBANG
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.
There are actually also functional trains running in Cambodia.
I too enjoyed the bamboo train when I visited Battambang. Great story 🙂
Ok. This bamboo train looks quite fun – and very different! Cambodia is definitely on our wish-list of places to visit…
Thanks, hope you make it to Cambodia someday!
We really enjoyed our ride on the bamboo train, and the kids loved it, too. I will say it’s become more touristy over the decade between trips for us adults (I think they still had the same cow, though), but I didn’t mind at all – it’s still worth it.
Everyone in Battambang was adamant that a piece of the track was going to be kept (and/or replaced somewhere) for tourist purposes. Let’s hope so. Then it’ll be purely for tourists but I’ll probably still have a ride, just for fun and old time’s sake.
In the meantime, the death of the bamboo railway has been “imminent” for at least several years now so I’m not sure how much haste is needed to catch it…
True, sometimes the real touristy things to do are so much fun! I also heard that already long time ago people talked about ‘the end of the bamboo train’…..looking at the tracks and the pace of development in the country I guess you are right!
Oh Emiel, that was FABULOUS!! I love the video and the monks getting on for their ride. Huge smiles! As always, your photos are gorgeous.
The monks were great indeed Laurel. We thought we would only meet tourists, but that was certainly not the case! Thanks a lot.
So sad that in the future they may not exist. Looks fun!
Ah, like with a lot of travelling it is not the destination but the journey that matters, thanks Emiel, we are taking note for when we visit in January.
Well observed Andrew! It’s the journey, not the destination that matters. That is also why we embrace the concept of slow travel; to expand the journey as long as possible…
Gorgeous pictures, I want to go! We are saving Cambodia for next year… This is top of the list thanks.
You will enjoy Cambodia for sure! I have more posts coming up soon.
We didn’t find out about this until after we left Cambodia, but it’s on our list for our next visit.
I can imagine Manfred. Battambang is not on the radar of all visitors to Cambodia. I guess that’s why we loved it: more relaxed and laid-back.
It’s a bit of a tourist trap – but if you have the money to waste go for it – they hassle you to buy things when you get to the village and ask for you to give the driver a tip at the end.
We listened to the tourist trap stories before we went, so we were prepared. But honestly we did not encounter the hassle to buy things at the end of track. One woman indeed tried to sell us some t-shirts, but soon she stopped trying and we talked about our kids and the track in general. We tipped the driver, but nobody really asked us to do so (at least not in such a persistent way one would expect in a tourist trap scenery). But I know others had the more extreme experience you probably also had.
Looks like a blast. We are going to have to get there and give it a whirl too.
Do you have plans to travel to Cambodia soon Heidi?
No, it will be next year. We will leave Spain over the summer (July ish) and then to SEA… Not sure where we are going to start. Likely Thailand and then move around.
How long are you going to spend in SEA? And are you then heading back to Spain?
We are just going to go with the flow. The plan is to go to SEA and see how long we want to stay. We don’t have plans to return to Spain or Europe, but you never know. What about you?
We’ll be in Thailand until around June and then off to Europe. And maybe somewhere in between. And NYC at some time.
We went on a steam train a couple of weeks ago that went up and down a track for about 2km-our kids loved it; imagine going 12km on a bamboo platform-tney’ll think they’ve died and gone to heaven!
They will be singing all the way Melanie!!