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The Bamboo Train

December 7, 2010

view from the bamboo train

We catch the bamboo train just outside Battambang.  I don’t know what to expect when we sit down on the split bamboo platform and the driver pulls the chord to start the engine.  We’re quickly going about 20km/hr and have big grins on our faces.  We pass through a narrow corridor of bushes swatting our shoulders, the wavy line of the tracks ahead, passing rice paddies and crossing streams on open bridges.  The other passengers are the driver and two little boys.

Butterflies as big as birds, dragonflies, and fat blimp-like bumblebees fly by and around us.  A bright mint green and black spotted grasshopper lands on my arm.  I’m sitting with my bum less than 12 inches from the tracks.  The joints are not well aligned.  I feel the bump-bump as the first then second axle hits each joint.  

The bamboo platform is on a wooden frame that sits on two axles with bearings that allow the wheels to wobble on the very wavy tracks.  The sound is like the wa-wa of a chopper.  I can feel the movement through my butt and ankles pressed to the bamboo matt, sitting crossed legged.  It feels like a mild case of pins and needles. 

There is one set of tracks, so when we meet another bamboo train we get off and our train is disassembled to let the other one pass.  This is simple and takes less than a minute – 2 people can lift off the engine, then the platform, and then the two axles and put them to the side. 

train disassembled to let another pass

According to my guidebook the bamboo train may not be around much longer because the line is going to be improved for trains of the non-bamboo variety.  That’s a real shame as it’s the most fun train ride I’ve ever been on.

boy waiting for the train to start

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sissi permalink
    December 13, 2010 10:57 pm

    It’s pretty cool! I read an article, it recommends this train. It says this train doesn’t have break, some kind of dangerous, but fun!
    It looks like kid’s big toy.

    • December 15, 2010 3:11 pm

      Hi Sissi, I guess it could be a little dangerous, but I think the top speed is about 20km/hr, which is less than me riding my bicycle, so should be relatively safe! Yes, it is like a big toy – very fun.

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