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    Tuesday, 21 July 2009

    The Bamboo Train of Cambodia

    Major Highway [Enlarge & More]
    Travelling around in Cambodia so far seems to be pretty straightforward. Both of us thought it would be very difficult but private bus companies travel between all the major cities. As for the road network it’s really simple, not many major roads cross the country and by the looks of it you have to go out of your way to get anywhere. Luckily the country is about the size of England with a population of about 15m so the roads are pretty quiet compared to India or Hong Kong.

    Aerobics in the Park [Enlarge & More]
    We are now in Battambang the 2nd largest city in Cambodia and to give you a feel for the place it has no traffic lights. Like Phnom Penh it’s got a lot of work going on to improve it, but for now the city has a laid back feel. On our first day here we stumbled across the local park just before sunset and found ourselves in the middle of a giant aerobics session – well, actually, several sessions.

    The last few steps [Enlarge & More]
    The attraction of Battambang is that it has some great temples in the surrounding area that pre-date Angkor. They are all on the top of hills which actually are few and far between, as so far Cambodia has been very flat. One of them had 358 steps to the top, in the heat it’s hard work. We both learnt our lessons from India and took it easy going up so that we did not end up in big balls of sweat. The temples have made us both even more excited about seeing the Angkor Wat temple and the others that surround it, one of the main reasons for closing Cambodia in the first place.

    The Killing Cave [Enlarge & More]
    Where there is such beauty, the horrors of what happened in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge are always present. One of the temples also had what was called the killing cave as an attraction. It’s where victims of the regime were held in darkness and then killed. Walking into the cave is scary enough, I can’t even begin to imagine what the victims went through.

    Bamboo Train [Enlarge & More]

    To keep the theme of finding interesting ways to travel, the last time was in Oooty and the Blue Mountain Railway, we hunted out the Bamboo Train near Battambang. It’s an invention of the locals to be able to go back and forth on the single track railway they have in the country, transporting rice, wood etc. The single track is also used by the state railway so the bamboo train is dismantled to let is pass when an actual train does come along. As a tourist you can jump on and take a ride with the locals, it's fast and fun and a great way to see the countryside. Just remember to keep your mouth shut otherwise you may end up swallowing something you did not want to!

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