The bamboo train is a small plywood-framed cart, with a bamboo mat placed on top whilst resting on top of two independent rail axles recycled from damaged tanks left over from the Cambodian genocide war. A simple two stroke motor sits at the back and accelerates the bamboo train a steady 50km/h. Welcome to the Cambodian Bamboo Train.
This idea first popped up when locals of Battambang city realized the Northern Cambodian Line built by the French and left abandoned for numerous decades could convert into a system to ease the transport of goods during the United Nations Transitional Authority of Cambodia period.
It took only a few years for tourists to hear about this and to offer $5 to the locals to transport them down and back on the single track. When two bamboo trains would meet head on, the train with the least tourists (usually sits up to 5) would need to disassemble and allow the other to pass. The dissembling and reassembling process can take 3 minutes.
Our driver assembling the train Further down the rail to Battambang station
In 2018 the local government closed the old bamboo train line as they make way for the tracks to be upgraded to an actual train line that’ll provide a passenger trains between Cambodia and Thailand once completed around 2025.
The government created a new bamboo train tourist zone located 20km out of Battambang which basically circles around a carpark and can only have 6 bamboo train carts working at once. This received a lot of negative feedback from tourists and has been named the tourist trap of Battambang. We certainly recommend avoiding this area.
A friendly shopowner waving at us Hanging out on the front of the train A little girl is waiting for us to pass to then cross
However, we here at YPT have followed the original tracks from Battambang train station further down the line and found an unofficial bamboo train with families living along the line operating this business.
The cost of $5 includes a return trip per person and takes you 25 minutes out of Battambang passing villages within a jungle and then out to an empty field placing you in the middle of nowhere. There’s a small hut that’s been built for tourists that include water and snacks. The local woman running the shop was incredibly friendly and not pushy. She genuinely enjoyed the chit chat whilst our train main swaps the motor around and returns us back to the original starting point near the city.
There’s no other experience in the world to ride the rails only a few inches off the ground at speeds of 50km/h from a makeshift cart. A unique experience we highly recommend which is why we’ve included this into our Cambodian tour.