Only in Cambodia – bammboo ‘train’ – Dare you try?

Battambang isn’t the most popular destination for travellers passing through Cambodia, but those who do make it to the northwestern part of the country know about the notorious bamboo train.

Located in the outskirts of town, the bamboo train, or nori, is essentially a bamboo flatbed on wheels, which is powered by a small motorcycle or tractor engine.

 The fast and reliable train service in Battambang
The fast and reliable train service in Battambang

The bamboo train is one of the world’s all-time classic rail journeys. From O Dambong, on the east bank 3.7km south of Battambang’s Old Stone Bridge, the train runs southeast to O Sra Lav, via half an hour of clicks and clacks along warped, misaligned rails and vertiginous bridges left by the French. Read more Indochina travel Cambodia

 Bamboo train
Bamboo train

Each bamboo train – known in Khmer as a norry (nori ) – consists of a 3m-long wood frame, covered lengthwise with slats made of ultra-light bamboo, that rests on two barbell-like bogies, the aft one connected by fan belts to a 6HP gasoline engine.

Norries have low fares, are frequent and relatively fast, so are popular despite their rudimentary design, lack of brakes, the state of the rails (often broken or warped) and lack of any formal operating regime. Tours in Cambodia

The homemade train
The homemade train

There is some precedent for the Norry’s popularity. In the 1980s and 1990s due to the civil war in Cambodia trains were led by an armed and armored carriage; the first carriages of the train were flatbeds used as mine sweepers and travel on these was free for the first carriage and half-price for the second. These options were popular despite the obvious risks.

Riding the bamboo train is not, in fact, a leisurely jaunt through the Cambodian countryside. It may seem like it will be that way when you first settle in for the ride on a cushion atop the bamboo frame.

But then the motor starts sputtering (perhaps after a few pulls and a bottle or two of gasoline), and soon you’re gripping at anything you can get your hands on as you zip along the uneven tracks at 30 miles per hour.

The Indochina Voyages team.

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