Battambang’s Bamboo Train

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On a hot December morning I took my $10US ticket to ride on the notorious Battambang, Cambodia tourist trap, the nori, or bamboo train. The train’s iconic clickety-clack  is exhilarating and terrifying as it reaches top speeds of up to 40km/h over some seriously dilapidated, jagged pieces of track.

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This tourist train is an ultra-light bamboo frame with bamboo slats and a 6 HP gasoline engine. The Cambodian railway that was laid by the French during the colonial age was destroyed in many areas by years of civil war and the Khmer Rouge and stopped official service in 2009. The bamboo train that operates in the Battambang area was originally started by locals as an ingenious way to transport food and other goods short distances on the useable parts of the existing train tracks. While there is an official project to rehabilitate Cambodia’s railway it seems to be lacking initiative or funding.

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Because there is only one track and the tourist train runs both directions, when a train approaches the car with the least passengers must hop off, dismantle, and hop back on the track after letting the other train pass.

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The only minor irritation, on this otherwise peaceful 40 minute round trip journey, is the 10 minute stop at the turn around. The makeshift village seems to exist just to sell tourists over priced souvenirs or drinks. I smiled politely, said no thank you, and stood in the same spot where I was dropped off until the driver came back. This quaint tourist trap is a little overpriced but as such an unique experience it is definitely a must-do if you are in the Battambang area.

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