The bamboo train may have become ‘the’ tourist thing you ‘have to do’ in Battambang but that’s for a good reason. In three years of travel, our ride on the Bamboo Train still rates as one of the most enjoyable and unique days out that we’ve had. Riding through the jungle and fields on a wooden pallet on tank wheels with an outboard motor for propulsion … not an experience to be missed!
Originally the train was a form of local transport that evolved out of recycled materials when the Khmer Rouge dismantled the train network and people needed a way to get between villages under the radar. Today the bamboo train is primarily run for tourists. A ride consists of a 20 or so minute trip in one direction towards a brick factory where you can stop for a drink and a walk through the village if you like before returning.
One of the highlights of the experience is when you encounter another bamboo train coming in the opposite direction. There’s only one track so the drivers quickly decide who has right of way (a method that comes down to who ever gets there first, bluffing and if all else fails rock, paper, scissors!). They then work together to dismantle one train, move it off the tracks, move the other train past and put it back together. The speed at which the whole process happens is amazing.