Discovering train travel in Battambang on a return trip in 2004, found two very different forms and experiences, and a very authentic-feeling experience in rural Cambodia.
The bamboo train was the most memorable, and most quirky, mode of transport I have ever taken. We rode it for a short distance, after taking some motos (motorbikes with a driver) for a tour around the countryside around Battambang. The bamboo train is essentially a platform on wheels that travel on the railway tracks, and powered by the smallest of motors.
Given that it is one of the rural resident’s usual modes of travel, we shared our two platforms with local farmers, chickens, and other locals moving in the area.
The bamboo train shared the single track with the regular train, but also travels in either direction. When traveling along encountering another bamboo train coming in the other direction is the norm, and the point of the most bizarre experience.
Upon meeting up with another bamboo train coming the other way, it is determined which is the heaviest of the two, and then both sets of travellers set about taking the lighter of the bamboo train platform and all it’s cargo off the track. The heavier bamboo train is then able to pass by, and the lighter bamboo train is lifted back onto the tracks, with all the things it was carrying, to continue on it’s way.
After recovering from the longest laughing session and that bamboo train experience, we caught an actual train to our next destination, in another very local experience. The hard wooden seats, and the very open carriages, it was an authentic way to take in the countryside going past. We were also offered all sorts of food and treats from the locals, and lost a couple of our seats at one point when a very large haul of pineapples were loaded on at one stop. The hammocks on board, however, more than made up for this!
These travels were part of an alternative trip from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, which included a boat across the Tonle Sap Lake, then overland and train travel through Pursat and Battambang - worth trying if you have the time, for a different view of the country.
This post is part of a series marking 10 years since I travelled to Cambodia to work as a volunteer. These photos, and memories, are actually from a return trip in 2004.