Do: Bamboo Train in Battambang

I love Battambang.  It's pretty; it's peaceful.  Life just seems to move at a slower pace there.  It's a nice change from Phnom Penh.

And my favourite thing to do in Battambang is the Bamboo Train, or Norry, as it's referred to locally.  If you haven't experienced the Bamboo Train, it's kind of like a antiquated roller-coaster, without any dips.

You'll find it about 5km from the centre of Battambang, at a disused railway station.

The tourist police will be waiting to charge you an exorbitant (by Cambodian prices) amount to take a ride (last time we went we were asked for $5 per head). You can try bargaining, if you like. If you succeed, give yourself a pat on the back, because they're usually pretty adamant about the price.

They'll then call your driver, who will set up your norry (i.e., bamboo platform on wheels) and away you go.

The train heads in pretty much a straight line.  Most of the way, the tracks are lined with bushes, where cows graze, seemingly unperturbed by the clattering trains. Every so often you'll get a glimpse of the surrounding rice paddies, which are quite picturesque. I'm not sure how fast the train actually goes, but as it clatters along, it feels pretty fast.  A word from the wise, if you decide to take off your shoes, keep tight hold of them.  I lost one, which was very kindly retrieved by the next carriage.  

But the real experience happens when you meet a carriage coming the opposite way.  As there is only one track, someone must dismantle their norry to allow the other to pass.  Generally the side with the least norries/passengers is the side that must dismantle, with some help from the other drivers.

Eventually the train stops at a small village that has a brick factory, that I haven't yet explored.  A number of small stalls are set up selling drinks and snacks.  You're free to roam for as long as you like as your driver waits for you. Although the drivers will often call their passengers at the same time in an attempt to travel in a convoy and thus avoiding having to dismantle their norries.

On the way back, you may find yourself with extra company as some locals hitch a ride back.

At the end of the day, the train is a bit of tourist trap, and it's also overpriced.  But it's also, in my opinion, a lot of fun. And should be experienced once, if not more often.

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