Bumping along the Bamboo Train in Battambang

Waiting for the train

Waiting for the train

So, after two nights during which at least one of us slept 12 hours each night (fine, fine, I was the one who slept away 24 hours in a 48 hour span…but Robert also had one 12 hour night), we decided it was time to get out and do something exciting. Something that would get our adrenaline flowing.  Something that didn’t involve eating rat.  And Battambang has the perfect thing — the bamboo train.

Away we go

Away we go

Now, rumor is that the bamboo train accurately reflects how Cambodians used to travel, although today only a small portion of the tracks are operational (I use that term loosely) and it is purely a tourist activity.  Basically, the “train” consists of a bamboo or wooden pallet which rests on four metal wheels and two axles, all of which is powered by a small engine.  A mat is placed over the pallet, and cushions are placed on the mat, but there are no seat belts, no handrails, no anything.  The “track” is warped, and there are numerous gaps where one piece of track meets another.

Warped rails and an oncoming train

Warped rails and an oncoming train

Climb on board, turn on the engine and go.  And I mean go.  The train can get up to speeds of 40 km/hour or so.  That may not sound fast, but when you are bumping along through the Cambodian countryside, with tree branches whipping against your arm, and bunny rabbits frantically trying to get out of the way, it feels pretty fast.

And it feels even faster when you see another bamboo train approaching from the opposite direction.  Yep, trains run both ways on a single set of tracks.  One of the two drivers has to stop, take his or her train apart, and clear the tracks for the other driver.  I’m not sure how they decide which train has to get off the tracks, but it might have something to do with which one has more passengers.

Taking apart the train

Taking apart the train

Happily, we survived our adventure on the bamboo train no worse for wear.  And Robert even found a shop selling num pang (sandwiches similar to banh mi sandwiches) at the end of the day.

Now, any bets on how long we will sleep tonight?

Yummy num pang

Yummy num pang

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