Riding the Bamboo Train in Battambang
Trip Start Jan 10, 2010
26Trip End Apr 16, 2010
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So with the town that can be visited in 1 hour I took it to the countryside on the back of a motorcycle with a guide ready to show me everything. And so he did. For an entire day we rode on big dusty unpaved national road and on a dozen small also unpaved village roads, between beautiful rice patties, vegetable gardens and pineapple plantations, on both sides of the river. Amazing countryside, when the day ended with a stop to this local sweets spot were I had this local specialty, a sort of pudding (was not but is the closest thing I can think of) with palm fruit and some other fruit like papaya but green..
Some of the spots we stopped were hard history lessons, sort of preambul to what I will face in Phnom Penh. I'm talking about the temple of Phnom Sampeau (Boat Mountain) and the Killing Cave, where the Cambodian people were first jailed in the temple that was transformed into prison then marched on top of the mountain and beaten with palm branches then pushed to their deaths into the cave some 15 meters down.
And then there was this other hill and on its top this pre-Angkorian temple, Prasat Banan that it is said was the inspiration for the Magnificent Angkor Wat, I personally doubt that but what do I know... :) Nevertheless The temple is beautiful and the long stone stairway up the top of the hill superb (for photography as well as for my Gluteus Maximus if you know what I mean:))
The fun part and most exciting part of the day was riding the famous Bamboo train. With one railway line laid down by the French and one train a week people of Battambang figured it out how to put that to good use. Very simple and efficient idea, not very comfortable if you ask my above mentioned muscles: a motorcycle (sometimes tractor) engine attached with a regular car belt to one of the axis and a steel frame overlaid with bamboo slats resting on wheels taken from abandoned tanks. It can run with 40K/hr or more on the worst rails ever known to man. Did I mention that it doesn't have brakes? The traffic rulles are simple: when two Norries (that's their name) going in oposite direction meet the one with fewer passengers is dismantled on the spot and gives way unless it carries a motorcycle, in which case the other one gets to yield
The 10 km or so ride that I took it was adrenaline intensive and spinal disks compressing but I'll do it again in no time. Sadly this last April the government closed it due to a reconstruction of the Pnom Penh - Poipet railway project. :(
Lastly I got to meet the Fruit Bats, the size of cats with wings (impressive when flying believe me) these smart fellows live in this one tree in the courtyard of the Buddhist Monastery. Why smart because they figure it out that no living being can be killed on the holly land of a Buddhist Monastery so ... safe haven in this tree. I call that Smart! Peasants don't seem to be very happy about it though...