Battambang goes Bamboo Bonkers

After leaving Phnom Penn we headed up to Battambang north-west  of  Tonal Sap Lake. We only planned to stay a couple of days but our top priority was to ride on the legendary Bamboo train……

Once we’d arrived we checked into a cheap hotel and looked to hire a scooter for the following days adventure. The locals insisted on a guide at a small extra cost but we both decided that we had enough experience of finding places with crap maps and a compass that there was no need…..or maybe they just was trying to make some more money out of us???

We hired a scooter (125cc) for $7 (approximately 4 pound) and took our bums out into the wild in search of the Bamboo train.

After only a few wrong turns and a mouthful of dust from the dust tracks we finally found where the train runs from… runs along just a single track  in a straight line for approximately 6km to the tiniest station where you are accustomed to purchase water and food from the drivers mother. A return trip costs $5 each and takes around 1 hour….

Love at first sight…..

The bamboo train









When we got off the bike and parked up we were pleasantly and disturbingly surprised. The train? consists of a wooden frame that has slithers of bamboo nailed across to make a sitting surface. This area can fit about 5 people on it at a squeeze as we found out. This sits on 2 axles, one has a drive pulley and belt attached. The train is powered by what looks to be a lawn mower engine. The engine fits to the frame on slots and the belt is pulled over the pulley on the engine. To make the train move the driver at the back uses a stick to tension the belt by sliding the engine outwards, this then grips the belt and the train starts moving. No brakes just a stick. It is very primitive but amazing to see this working and loads of fun. Once we got going this thing got up to some serious speeds…..around 30 mph. It might not seem much but when that’s combined with being 6 inch from the ground and the track as wonky and out of line as a donkey’s appendage then it felt pretty scary at times.

The really funny thing is that there are quite a few of these moving up and down the track so when two meet, the lesser loaded one has to disassemble and let the other pass. I even got to assist in the process.

It turns out that the track is owned by a private company who take almost all of the cash from the rides so the drivers are in short supply. The next big future plan is to replace the track and the Bamboo trains and use a luxury train to ferry tourists and goods to and from the surrounding areas. This will be disastrous to the operators of the Bamboo trains as they wont exist anymore….we feel lucky to have experienced it.

The rest of the day resulted in us driving the scooter to a few temples situated around the area. By this time in the trip I was a little bit templed out so I probably wasn’t the most excited person there. To make this worst I stubbed my big toe on the crap concrete steps but managed to tear open the end like a tin of sardines. Ouch! Luckily there was no blood and a nice guy gave me a plaster to stick it back together.

On the way back after many hours of riding along the dusty roads we stopped off at the only Cambodian Winery to sample the local brew. It wasn’t worth buying a case…..we did however meet some funny Korean school kids who were out on a field trip who seemed to like it….some of them needed help getting back on-board the bus.


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