Battambang's bamboo train is one of the world's all-time unique rail journeys.
From Dambong, 3.7km east of Battambang's old French bridge (Wat Kor Bridge), the train bumps 7km southeast to O Sra Lav along warped, misaligned rails and vertiginous bridges left by the French. The journey takes 20 minutes each way, with a 20-minute stop at O Sra Lav in between.
Each bamboo train consists of a 3m-long wooden frame, covered lengthwise with slats made of ultralight bamboo, that rest on two barbell-like bogies, the aft one connected by fan belts to a 6HP gasoline engine. Pile on 10 or 15 people, or up to three tonnes of rice, crank it up and you can cruise along at about 15km/h. With the advent of good roads, the bamboo train would have become defunct if it hadn't been for its reinvention as a tourist attraction.
It's a cheap and simple mode of travel. Passengers are transported on the flat beds by a driver who stands or sits at the back and uses a small motor to propel the carriages along. There are no brakes and it reminds me of the small fishing boats. There's no real destination for the Battambang leg of the Bamboo Train – it's all about the experience.