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Battambang - Cambodia

Bamboo Train Bamboo TrainBamboo TrainPhnom Banan Phnom Sampeau

One of Cambodia's largest cities, Battambang is surprisingly laid back and peaceful, with a small central market and riverside promenade. The surrounding plains are home to many farming communities, while the hills have several ancient Khmer temples.

Five towered Phnom Banan is set on a steep hill and reached by a very long naga flanked staircase. There are stunning views over the surrounding plains. Phnom Sampeau is a larger complex, again set on a hilltop with fantastic views. Monkeys live here and there are hidden shady canyons cut into the rocks below. Visiting these temples takes you through a picturesque slice of rural life on the way, passing many friendly schoolchildren on bicycles as well as overloaded lorries and cars - with passengers sat on the roof or bonnet - bumping along the red dirt roads.

The strangest journery though is along the Bamboo Railway. After the French-built railway system fell into disrepair, enterprising locals set up their own railway of sorts. Small motorbike engines were coupled to two pairs of wheels and a lightweight bamboo platform to form a tiny train. These were used to take good to market, although increasingly they are used to ferry tourists up and down a short stretch of track.

The platforms hold about four people comfortably and race along the warped track like a flying carpet. There are no brakes, just a pole used to slow things down slightly. When two trains meet, one of them is simply lifted off the track then reassembled once the other has passed.

Unfortunately there are plans to replace the Cambodian railway system so this ingenious transport may come to an end soon.


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