We had an early start the next day as we wanted to get to the Bamboo railway before the sun became too hot and the tourists too plentiful. I don’t think Shawn or I knew what we were in for. Neither Dave nor the guide explained very much about our ride. Each bamboo train – known as “norry” or “lorry” – consists of a 3m long wooden frame, covered in lengthwise slats made of ultralight bamboo that rest on two barbell like bogies. The aft one connected by fan belts to a 6HP gasoline engine. When two flatbeds met each other – the one with the fewest passengers had to disassemble along the side and let the other train pass. It is used for picking up and dropping off passengers, cargo and animals along the track route. The train goes about 7km along warped and misaligned rails.
Shawn and I got on the flatbed in the front – sitting on very thin pillows. We had our cameras and camera bags behind us. The guide and Dave sat behind and then there was the driver by the engine. We had bars in front of us to hold on to. It was a pretty scary ride especially hitting the misaligned rails. I kept imagining us flying off or crashing. At one point the rails were higher on one side than the other and you felt like you might tip over. There wasn’t a whole lot to see along the way – just plenty of birds flying away, bugs hitting you in the face, lots of bushes and trees and a few people here and there. We ended up (not soon enough for us) at the next village. I am not sure if it was a real village – mostly a few rickety shops and a bunch of kids trying to coerce you into buying wrist bands. One girl kept walking along with us saying, “Only buy from me, don’t buy from anyone else” She was very persistent but we just ignored her. There wasn’t much to buy – just scarves, tee-shirts, wrist bands, sarongs etc. There was a bricks works nearby so we walked over to take a look. Dave said he had never seen anyone working there. They used rice husks to fuel the kiln.
I guess we were there about an hour – long enough for all the sellers to try to get us to buy something. Shawn bought a bamboo train tee-shirt. I thought about it but the characters on the train looked like ghosts so it wasn’t very appealing. I ended up buying a wrist band for about 50 cents. We dreaded the trip back as it was now a lot hotter and humid and we didn’t look forward to the bump and grind and bugs. We had to stop one time as a flatbed coming from the other direction had to disassemble and move off the track to let us go by. I found out later that the train is actually illegal and the government keeps threatening to shut it down.
How fast did the train go? Do the children speak English?
It goes between 15 and 20 m/h but every time you hit a rail that is uneven – it is jarring. My back was hurting when I got off. The children speak some English. I am sure they learned a few sentences so they could sell to the tourists. The one girl was very aggressive and annoying. It is kind of a scam as once you arrive there is really nothing to do but wander around and look at their wares – which aren’t that great.