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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

21 December 2010

Clackety-BANG

20th December 2010

Today we explored all the area around Battambang, aboard a tuk-tuk with our friendly guide and driver Somnang. We visited the only winery in Cambodia, then a rare traditional country house that survived the Khmer Rouge, an ancient temple that predates Angkor Wat and a killing cave where perhaps 10,000 people were put to death by the Khmer Rouge and from which millions upon millions of bats emerge at dusk like a great rustling river in the sky. But the best bit of the day was the bamboo train.

This is the kind of attraction that seems to polarise people, as we found accounts and blogs divided between “loved it!” and “boring and uncomfortable”. I was for giving it a miss, but before we knew it Somnang had taken us there, so why not?

The bamboo train is nothing more than a bamboo platform with a motor attached, perched on top of two axles. The railway it runs along was once the main line to Phnom Penh but is now disused. Except by the bamboo trains. They are used by locals for moving goods around, for getting to school and getting to town. Their days are numbered, alas, because a company has leased the rights to get the mainline up and running again.

So. A curmudgeon might say that the ride is noisy and uncomfortable, that there is nothing much to see and then you go back the way you came. All this is relatively true. But I found that I loved the deafening roar of the metal wheels as they hurtled along the tracks, and the rhythmic clackety-BANG when they hit the joints between track sections. These metal rails have all warped over the years, so many of the joints no longer line up and there’s a brief frisson of will-we-derail each time before the spine-jarring jolt as you go over. The train flies through open farmland, and the air is painted with myriad butterflies flitting around the hedgerows and the train tracks.

At the end of the track is a friendly snack stand and nearby are brick kilns, still very much in use and probably using the bamboo trains to carry finished bricks away. On the way back we found ourselves heading straight for a train coming the other way! Not a problem. We just stopped, hopped off, dismantled the train and took it off the tracks to let the other pass, then reconstructed it and continued on our way. It really is a fiendishly ingenious use of some pre-existing and unwanted infrastructure, and a delightful way to spend an hour.

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One Response to “Clackety-BANG”

  1. Jane says:

    It’s a flat roly-coaster! Fun!

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