It might not be far off the ground, or go upside down, but there’s really nothing quite as thrilling as feeling like you might fly off the rails when barreling forward at about 40 kilometers per hour with nothing holding you down.
Battambang’s Bamboo Train, or nori, was first built by the French in 1927, the rails running all the way to the Thailand border. Nowadays, while still occasionally used by locals to carry bigger loads from town to town, the train is mostly used by tourists who come to experience the one-of-a-kind ride.
But to call it a train is a bit of an overstatement really. The contraption consists of a platform constructed from sparse bamboo strips and what is possibly a tractor motor not actually attached to the wheels that it runs on.
There are no seat belts, or seats for that matter, and passengers sit on a straw mat placed at the front for comfort and stability.
The rails are appropriately rickety, thrown down and attached just haphazardly enough that the train jerks at each junction. They are bent, whether from heat, time, or construction, and add a bit of a rollercoaster swerve as you fly through, bushes and branches occasionally swatting at your limbs if you dare to extend them past the platform’s perimeter.
There’s only one set of rails so when two trains going in opposite directions meet, one group disembarks and the drivers disassemble the platform from the wheels, put it on the ground, remove the wheels from the tracks, push the other train through, and reassemble the first train back together.It is a 20 minute ride to a tiny village where you’ll have ten minutes to buy a drink, a souvenir or visit a small rice factory guided by the adorable children for $1, and then you hop on and head back.The Bamboo train is definitely a tourist attraction, but is likely one of the most authentic ones in southeast Asia; unfortunately, with the reconstruction of Cambodia’s railway system, it might not be around in a couple of years. There’s really no danger of having an accident, or flying off for that matter, but rattling through the Cambodian countryside on a flimsy raft of bamboo is really a thrill you have to experience before it’s gone for good.
The Bamboo Train is a $6 tuk tuk ride from the center of Battambang. The train costs $5 per person and runs everyday during daylight hours.