@FarEastAdvTravl

World-Class Ride Cambodia’s Bamboo Train

By John Saboe | Cambodia

Feb 06


Cambodia's bamboo train-essential transportation for rural living doubles as a tourist ride

Cambodia’s bamboo train-essential transportation for rural living doubles as a tourist ride

Far East Adventure Travel The Podcast is brought to you by Far East Adventure Travel Magazine. Get your free copy now! Go to the iTunes App Store, download the app then download your copies of Far East Adventure Travel Magazine.

I was staying in Battambang, Cambodia. While I was there I had to visit one of the area’s most famous attractions, the bamboo train. The bamboo train gets it’s name from the bamboo deck or floorboard used that rests on top of the wheels that can transport anything from chickens and rice to people. In Khmer it’s called a Lorry and has been used since the Khmer Rouge shutdown of most regular train service in the country.

The Bamboo Train Station. Now where is the first class lounge? I could use a bloody mary about right now! Waiter? Actually the place is quite charming and surprisingly not touristy feeling at all. At least not at the starting point in O Dambong, about 4 km from Battambang.

The bamboo train solves the biggest problem of a single track train line. What do you do when two trains meet from opposite directions? In the case of the bamboo train? Simple-move one off the track. This experience alone makes this one of the world’s all time great train rides.

A little heavy on the photo gear I know but I’m a one man show right now.

Farewells from the departure crew and we’re off.

The bamboo train was not the first flatbed type service in Cambodia. During the civil war of the 80’s and 90’s flatbed trains were used as mine sweepers ahead of the rest of the train. Service was free, risky but popular.

Bamboo train station at O Dambong-approximately 4 km from Battambang, Cambodia

Bamboo train station at O Dambong-approximately 4 km from Battambang, Cambodia

And here we go about 3 minutes into the ride and our first stop. Wow, now that’s taking service station to the next level. The first lorries or bamboo trains were actually hand driven with a pole, kind of like an Italian gondola. Small motorcycle or tractor engines, like this one were added later. The wheels? They’re actually from abandoned tanks! Yes get your ass off the deck so I can do my job, thank you!

Once again we are rolling on the tracks. The ride lasts almost a half-hour each way starting in O Dambong with a short stop in O Sra Lav before returning.

The tracks are not in the best of shape with little or no maintenance for decades making them warped and misaligned. Occasionally you’ll get a strong bump from a really weak section, but hey it’s all part of the charm.

It is just after 7am and I think this is a perfect time to come-with the sun just rising and cool comfortable temperatures. The atmosphere is amazing and feels like you’ve been dropped into an Indochina themed adventure movie.

Cambodia’s first rail line was built by the French in the 1930’s. By 1969 the rail system was still in good shape but the civil war of the 1970’s soon saw some of the line destroyed. By 2008 passenger service was completely discontinued. Private interests currently hold the concession to the railway with only freight operation running between Phnom Penh and the coastal town of Sihanoukville.

We are slowing down because another train is coming our way. The rule is the car with fewer passengers gives way to the other car. So if you want priority service bring a group or give some locals a free ride.

Finally after a ride with stops that lasts just under 30 minutes we arrive at O Sra Lav. Here’s where it gets a little touristy, with the usual t-shirts, scarves, and kids selling bracelets. But that’s OK, they’re just trying to make a living and the people are always friendly here even if you don’t buy.

Like this man kindly showing me the way. Ten minutes later we are back on the tracks and heading back to O Dambong.

Sometimes so-called tourist attractions are spoiled by being over commercialized eventually losing the charm that originally made them attractive. For me the bamboo train is an absolutely original experience. Pieced together with leftover tank wheels, tractor motors, and eco-friendly bamboo, it’s the ultimate transportation mutt making it one of the world’s most original travel experiences.

Subscribe to the audio podcast:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/adventure-travel-far-east-inspired-by-rick-steves-lonely/id1079513943?mt=2

Follow

About the Author

I am a broadcaster, photographer, writer and videographer with a passion for travel throughout Asia. I love making connections and engaging with people. I am spiritual and seek adventure wherever I go.

Related Posts

Swayambhunath-“The Monkey Temple”-Kathmandu, Nepal-Captured this morning at 6:30 while observing/filming Gunla, the month long Buddhist festival observed by Newari Buddhists. The Newaris are the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley. This month long ritual of praying, fasting, playing music, and singing is believed to originate from when the monks retreated from the monsoon rains to meditate. Loud, but full of joy I only recently discovered this festival with the kind help of a ticket attendant at Swayambhunath who let me use my entrance ticket a second day,(never happened before), to see the Gunla ritual. Inspiring to see young and old followers enjoying the warm spirited atmosphere at this storied site. Energy/vibe-crazy amazing!!!#nepal #himalayas #kathmandu #annapurna #podcast #photojournalism #trekking #backpacking #buddhist #away #tripme #traveling #alone #photooftheday #travelblogger #new#happiness#travelingram #instago #instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #igtravel #travelphotography #mountainscape

Kathmandu, Nepal-More From Gai Jatra 2018 Festival this past Monday. Some of my best moments spent in Nepal besides trekking in the Himalaya have been observing the various festivals whether they’re Hindi, Buddhist, or Newari. The indescribable aura especially with the mix of beliefs and people that come from all over the country to work in the Kathmandu Valley is magical, unlike almost anywhere else I’ve visited. Sometimes I wonder did I find this place or did it find me. On my 8th visit in as many years… #kathmandu #hindu #hinduism #nepal #festival #podcast #photojournalism #trekking #backpacking #away #tripme #traveling #alone #photooftheday #new#happiness#travelingram #instago #instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #igtravel #travelphotography #WeAreSherpa

Kathmandu, Nepal-Gai Jatra 2018, “The Festival Of Cows”! These boys are dressed as cows leading processions of people who have lost a loved one this past year. Cows lead the processions but if one is not available a boy dressed as a cow is an acceptable substitute. They accept offerings from people in the street. Young children are dressed in bright colorful costumes and adults sometimes dress in funny outfits. It’s all to help those see they are not alone in their suffering and to help relieve the pain of loss. I felt so much joy and community today in Kathmandu. Once again the spirit of harmony and compassion unfolded itself in a beautiful ritual in the Kathmandu Valley. #kathmandu #hindu #hinduism #nepal #festival #podcast #photojournalism #trekking #backpacking #away #tripme #traveling #alone #photooftheday #new#happiness#travelingram #instago #instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #igtravel #travelphotography

Varanasi, India-The look in their eyes. Sometimes I turn the camera the other way just to capture moments like this. A group in this boat staring up at the ghats of the great Ganges each with their own perspective, different reasons perhaps of why they are there. Do they have a relative who’s body was cremated or are they waiting for someone to finally pass on to the next life? Are they simply just tourists admiring the ghats and city for the first time. Or could they be reminding us to always feel gratitude no matter what’s currently happening in our lives. Varanasi goes at many speeds with layers of activity that can sometimes only be felt days, even years after the fact…. #varanasi #nikon #puja #incredibleindia #hinduism #streetphotography#photojournalism #away #tripme #traveling #alone #nikon #flowers #photooftheday #new#happiness#travelingram#instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #FF #igtravel #followme

The Hungry Ghost Festival 2018 in Taipei, Taiwan

The Hungry Ghost Festival 2018 in Taipei, Taiwan

Mt. Kailash,Tibet-The highest point on the kora of Mt. Kailash, Drolma La Pass, 5630 meters. This is one of the most unique adventures on the planet. Travel to remote Western Tibet, Walk for 3 days on a pilgrimage around one of the holiest places of Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, and Bon followers. They say doing one kora around Mt. Kailash wipes away the sins of a lifetime. Some believe after you do a kora, circumambulation of Mt. Kailash, you will go on to do something good for humanity. It’s an incredible awakening and it helped change my life! #tibet #buddha #buddhism #hinduism #photojournalism #trekking #india #backpacking #away #tripme #traveling #alone #photooftheday #travelblogger #new#happiness#travelingram #instago #instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #igtravel #travelphotography #mountainscape

Hanoi, Vietnam-I think we’ve lost so much in the way of individuality and charm when it comes to retailing, let alone how it’s impacted our cultures and society. So many governments encourage big business and multinational chains with tax breaks and incentives while making it increasingly harder for an individual to start a small business- shameful! The Old Quarter Of Hanoi is still filled with family businesses that offer products, services, and style that’s quite unique for a capital city these days. From a traveler’s perspective it’s so refreshing to walk around a city and not see the same stores that are showing up everywhere else on the planet. I want more LOCAL at home and when I travel! #vietnam #hanoi #fuji #myfujifilm #fujifilm #streetphotography#photojournalism #away #tripme #traveling #alone #photooftheday #walkingstreet #nightmarket #new#happiness#travelingram #instago #instatravel#traveltheworld #instago #beautifulplace#travelpics#travellife #wildernessculture#instafollow#travellife #FF #igtravel #followme #travelphotography