While not top of many Cambodian visitors list, Battambang has an awful lot to offer travelers, from its ace food to its Khmer Rouge and colonial history and indeed the great food. For me though the top reason to come here is the Bamboo Train in Battambang!
Going full train geek in Battambang
I like trains, as regular readers might have noticed. This is to such a degree that I will pick a 12 hour train over a cheaper flight, and have done a full week on the Trans-Siberian railway – 5 times……
So, when deciding I wanted to go to Battambang and indeed Myanmar, when I knew I could do it overland but utilizing the train, well I was all about it…..
Step one involved taking the train from Phnom Penh to Battambang, a 6 hour beast that I throughly enjoyed. Later it shall involve trains in Thailand an indeed Myanmar.
Rocking out in Battambang
I have already written a Street Food Guide to Battambang, so won’t go into too much details about what it is like to travel here on this article, but to me this is a great city that is not to over-saturated with barang in the same way that say Siem Reap is.
The nightlife here is relaxed without being eclectic, whilst the food as previously mentioned is very good.
There’s also a decent amount of Khmer Rouge history that keeps me entertained.
So, to the Bamboo train Battambang!
WTF I the Bamboo train Battambang?
Basically it involves two train “wheels” that are put in e train gauge and then a fixture driven by a gasoline engine is put upon it, with the seating being of a bamboo made nature – hence bamboo train.
Its origins lay in when people used this method to transfer stuff quickly, cheaply and with relative ease initially during the communist times of the People Republic of Kampuchea, with the whole thing having a bit of a “Cuban” feel to it.
Nowadays it services tourists mostly, with the automobile now being a fairly cheap alternative.
How do you ride the Bamboo Train Battambang?
Firstly you will probably need to rent a Tuk-Tuk with the journey to 6km out of town, with driver waiting for you costing about $10. You then take the Bamboo train, with vendors ready and awaiting you that is also about $10, seemingly regardless of how many people you bring onto it.
You are then treated to an hour long, ro so journey to the one “stop”, although you actually make lots of stops as these trains needs to be taken apart whenever there is a traffic jam. Remember there is only one train line, so might is right here.
On the stop there are the usual tourist trap things for sale, such as t-shirts and the terrible epidemic that is the should be banned elephant pants. They also have fridge magnets, but sadly they were for Angkor Wat rather than Battambang.
You then sit here and wait, with the cold drinks being more than welcome. Why do you wait? Because the “real” trains are really big, and as you will see from my video would truly fuck up a bamboo train were they to actually hit you.
And then you go back to the start, fueled by petrol (surely to be banned one day), with the overall trip lasting about two hours.
A truly epic way to spend a day regardless of if you are a train nut like me, or not. Should you wish to see this yourself then jump on my Dark Tourism Tour, which is led by my good self.