A small, handwritten, faded cardboard sign pointed down a dirt track; "BAMBOO TRAIN 800 METERS THERE."

An untrained eye would have missed Battambang’s highlight attraction, but since we'd been circumnavigating the district for an hour in search of such advice it was pure gold. As we bumped down the dirt track, past the hickeldy-pickledy bamboo shopfronts and houses, scooters, bikes, children, dogs and chooks, incredulous faces stopped and stared at the orange beast bounding towards them, steered by two aliens.

The road ended, and we made our ‘big entrance’ out of the car (I’ve practised this now for maximum impact I put my shoes back on first and try not to look too rich). A policeman wandered over, introduced himself as the ‘tourist police’ and gave us the lowdown on the Bamboo train. He also mentioned that he remembered seeing us driving around about 3 years ago (apparently all Labradors in Landcruisers look the same.)

We pay our $10 for the round trip and jump on the train – a flat bamboo platform about 2x3m atop 2 loose axles, atop a railway track, powered by 6HP motor, powered by a 15 year old Khmer kid.

In practice the train is a vital part of local trade, allowing farmers down the line a way to transport their produce to the villages, but its been threatened for upgrade and so may soon become a thing of the past (if the stream of tourists itching to ride it dries up). 

The motor starts and we roll down the track, gradually picking up speed, the click clacking of the rail getting louder and faster and louder and faster as we whiz past villagers and rice paddies and fields and cows. Woohoo!!! It’s exhilarating! It’s like a flat, straight rollercoaster!

Up ahead, the next train is stopped and its 4 passengers stand to the side whilst the young driver waits for us. As we slowly roll up, it becomes apparent that this is a one way system, and the trains are disassembled to allow those travelling in the opposite direction to pass.

As the rest of us look on, Joe tries to help the young drivers by lifting the axle back onto the rail (a task they make look easy, not that he struggled). We motor up again and chug along to the station at the end of the line, where we’re ushered into a lean-to to buy drinks and fruit anything else they can find, and soon after, we make the journey back, readjust our spines and jump in the car to head for Siem Reap.