The Bamboo Train: Our “Locals Only” Tour of the Cambodian Countryside

A lonely ox in Battambang Cambodia

The Bamboo Train perfectly embodies the main reasons why I love Cambodia. The smiling people, the beautiful countryside and the complete absence of any sort of rules or regulations. 

When I watched the locals piling onto the 4-wheeled bamboo slab with their babies in tow, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I would totally take my non-existent children on this ride”. And I know some of you are probably saying to  yourselves, “That’s dangerous”. WELL, life is danger. No, but it’s kind of refreshing to be in a place where fun isn’t illegal and kids can run around without a fuzzy leash attached to their wrist.

Anyway, our expectations of this ride were that we’d have a nice trip together, just the two of us, through the countryside. Super romantic. Totally our thing. We’re a regular Jack and Rose.

What we wound up with instead was a completely packed “train car” (if you can call it that) full of Cambodian children and somebody’s sweet grandmother. Not to mention, the occasional face-full of branches.

How did this happen?  

The same way all great things happen. Pure chance.

Because of our laziness, we got to the train station a half hour before close. We were still able to go, and when we got to the village (the turning around point according to TripAdvisor), we were met by a huge group of charismatic children selling bracelets. They repeatedly asked us if we wanted to continue down the tracks to the lake. 

Continue down the tracks? After the village, everything looked completely overgrown. You couldn’t even SEE any tracks. Plus, TripAdvisor said the tour ends here – are you calling TripAdvisor a liar?! 

It took us a while with the language barrier, but we finally realized the children were trying so hard to convince us to keep going because it was the end of the business day. If we said yes, they got to come too. They had no other customers to sell to and the driver had no one else to pick up – so why not?

Alright, alright. Who are we to say no to a backstage pass? Plus, those kids deserved some fun. Who wants to stand around in the hot sun all day selling bracelets for 25 cents a piece?

The events that followed our decision to continue down the line were both hilarious and heartwarming. Between the kids shouting at Francis,

“Mista! Mista! Look out for the tree!”

and the group of Cambodian teenagers each taking their own selfie with us, we could absolutely not stop grinning.

But don’t take my word for it – watch the video! And if you can get through it without smiling, even a little bit, you’re probably dead inside. 


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