The Bamboo Express – A Rough n Tumble Ride On Cambodia’s Bamboo Train

Bamboo Train Operator

by Marc Valentine

We never planned to see a massive chunk of Cambodia… and besides Phnom Penh & Siem Reap we only stopped at one other small town named Battambang… the main attraction in Battambang… the Bamboo Trains.


Bamboo Train Driver

The Bamboo Trains Battambang Cambodia

The Bamboo what?

That’s right, there are trains in Cambodia that are made out of Bamboo…

Not really trains in the typical sense… the carriages are more like small bamboo platforms large enough for maybe 6 people.

Another giveaway that you’re not boarding a 1st class passenger car is the method that these trains are driven…

… they’re not modern trains driven by electricity – these trains are each powered by a single, tiny, petrol engine.


High Horsepower Bamboo Trains

Don't Let The Engines Size Fool You... They're Dangerously Powerful & Frighteningly Fast

To ride the Bamboo railroad, we took a bus north from Phnom Penh at 8am for around 6 hours to the small town of Battambang…

Besides the bamboo train, there’s not a ton of other attractions to keep the average tourist busy in Battambang…

… and as we had done about as much chilling out as we could handle – after spending nearly 2 weeks eating and pretty much turning into fat, lazy mess’s in Phnom Penh, we were here for a shotgun visit.

We did learn of an abandoned Pepsi factory on the outskirts of Battambang that sounded pretty cool…

… the story goes that they flicked the off switch one day and walked out of the factory leaving everything as it was, during the Khmer Rouge period of rule…

Apparently there’s still old Pepsi bottles in the assembly line waiting to be filled with black sugary goodness.

Sounds petty cool… shame we didn’t make it out there.

Back to the Bamboo Trains… we took a Tuk Tuk out of town about 30 mins or so, to the Bamboo Railway Station…

We boarded our little train and departed slowly… steadily gaining speed as we chugged along the overgrown and poorly maintained railway line.

About 15 mins into our journey we spotted an oncoming train in the distance signaling the need for us to disembark & help our driver disassemble our little train, move it piece-by-peice to the side of the railway… and then put it all back together like a jigsaw puzzle once the oncoming train had passed by.

So the big reason people flock to the Bamboo trains is so they can watch and be part of the disassembly and reassembly process.


Bamboo Railway Cambodia

$100 Says Thomas Can't Do This...

Here’s how it goes…

You spot an oncoming train and your driver begins to slow your extremely well ventilated 1st class carriage…

Just when you think you’re about to rub bamboo with the oncoming train, both drivers pull their trains to a stop & meet on the side of the track to exchange a few words in Cambodian.

We think the conversation goes something like…

“hey douche bag, your train is too stupid, slow & ugly that it doesn’t even deserve to be on this track… move it before I siphon some fuel out of my newly rebuilt… supercharged, double pump carbie, twin overhead camshaft 5hp engine and use it to set your POS on fire”

“Oh and BTW – yo mamma so fat – not even my cousins new train that’s made out of genetically enhanced ultra tough bamboo could carry her fat a$% on this track”


Assembling The Bamboo Train

Precision Train Assembly In A Controlled Environment

… this goes back and fourth for a few minutes then the driver with the weakest insults informs his passengers that they have to clamber off & help him pull his train to pieces, then dump it in a heap on the side of the track.

Someone informed me that they actually determine who has to pull their train apart by load size… so the train with the most passengers gets right of way… (makes sense) but I like my version better 🙂

Once the pleasantries are over… the guy with the maddest insults chugs passed, flips the bird and goes victoriously on his merry way.

The other driver & his passengers then need to figure out how turn their pile of steel and bamboo back into a functioning train so they can continue their journey.

It really is a novel way to travel…

And the scenery along the way, although a bit repetitive, is lovely… the train track is surrounded by greenery… overgrown trees & shrubs hang down over the track for a great deal of the ride…


Bamboo Train Line

One Of The Straighter Sections Of The Bamboo Train Line

Even the grass between the railway sleepers is overgrown & stretches up towards your platform as you speed over the top.

When we reached the end of the track, we were pleasantly greeted by a group of local youngsters who were adamant that they accompany us (out of the kindness of their hearts) to the biggest attraction at the end of the tracks…

… the local Stockfeed factory.


The End Of The Bamboo Train Line

Our Bamboo Train Welcoming Party

We’d been in SE Asia long enough to know the extremely enthusiastic youngsters end game…

Show the tourists around and be really, really pleasant & helpful for 15mins or so then discretly let them know how hungry and poor we are…


Bamboo Train Battambang Cambodia

The Girls Showed Us Their Impressive Jumping Skills Inside The Stockfeed Shed

We didn’t mind, they were a great bunch of kids and added a lot of fun to the trip…

… right up until a new train arrived loaded with a fresh group of tourists and suddenly we were old news 🙁

It’s a return trip, so your driver will take you back to the where you started… it’s basically rinse and repeat.

Getting To Battambang

Via bus from Phnom Penh… 6 hours, & costs around $8.50

Getting Out To The Bamboo Train

30 min Tuk Tuk ride… around $5.00

The Bamboo Train Ticket

It’s about an hour return trip & tickets cost around $5.00 each

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