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Bamboo Train in Battambang, Cambodia

Cambodia is famous for the temple of Angkor Wat and the many other temples that are nearby to it.  There is so much more to Cambodia though than Siem Reap/Angkor Wat.  We spent a few days in the Battambang area as well as Koh Rong Samloem and the capital city Phnom Penh.  More to follow on the other areas of Cambodia but for now the Bamboo train in Battambang.  This is a bit of a tourist trap to be honest but a fun way to spend an hour or two.

There is some interesting history to the train and it is still used to get crops to market from farms that have no roads leading to them.  Here’s some pictures and some descriptions.  I wrote a little about how I took some of the pictures as they weren’t the easiest to take.

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This was our driver.  He controls the speed with the stick which is a clutch to control the belt tension from the motor to the drive axle.
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Riding on the train – the view ahead.

I wanted to write a little about how I took this and the next few pictures. The settings for this picture were ISO 200, f 2.8, focal length 17mm (34mm equivalent) and a 0.6 second exposure.  I used a 10 stop Neutral Density (ND) filter to allow me to get over a half a second exposure in the middle of the day.  This screw on filter is effectively is like putting on 3 pairs of sunglasses.  It massively decreases the amount of light hitting the sensor so allows a longer exposure.

The Bamboo Train is old, I think dating back to the 50’s and very bumpy.  This makes hand holding a long exposure a challenge. I am very fortunate to have excellent stabilization built into my camera body (Olympus EM1) which allows handholding of these type of images.  A tripod may have helped but since it would have been on the bumpy train I don’t think it would have helped much.

I took a lot of pictures to get a few that were usable sharp.  I don’t think it would be possible to get something tack sharp as well as having the interesting motion blur effect.  As I read somewhere else recently motion blur looks good if there is a lot of it but terrible if it is only a small amount.

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Looking back at our driver
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Looking back at our driver
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We caught up with another train.  When you meet a train coming in the other direction one of the trains has to be removed from the rails. It only take a minute or two to pass a train.
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Not the most comfortable ride but it was fun
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Our train with no passengers.

If you are in the Battambang area give the train ride a go.  It doesn’t take long and is not much money either.

The dog and the snake

Lisa and I stayed for 4 or 5 nights in Khao Sok, Thailand.  The place we stayed at was exactly what we (I) wanted as it was set into jungle and had a lot of wildlife wandering around.  This little dog befriended us on our first day there.

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She was the friendliest little dog and hung around us whenever we were at the room.  On the first night she slept on the chair outside the room and would wake us up to warn us of any dangers that would come past.  This included other guests going to their rooms, cleaners in the morning and other dogs.

On the second night at about 4am she would not stop howling and barking. It went on so long I got up to see what was up and see her standing there barking at the shadows.  In my sleepy state I could just see a dark shape that was moving a bit.  Once I got the torch I saw that it was a 3-4ft Mangrove snake that had slithered over her in the night while she slept. Here are a couple of pictures of Mangrove snakes that we found in the Khao Sok rainforest at night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe snake was not in a hurry to leave but when I walked over to it, it eventually left.  Our room was right next to a pond with many frogs in it so I can see why it was around. The poor little dog would not stop shaking and for the rest of the time there would not go near that side of the patio or sleep outside our room at night. She still visited during the day but as soon as we went to bed off she went.

Mangrove snakes are one of the more common snakes in Khao Sok and in my opinion one of the coolest looking. They are a type of cat snake so rear fanged.  They don’t pose much threat to people as they are rear fanged. If you were stupid enough to grab one and let it chew on your fingers for a while then it could be quite dangerous but like any snake it will leave you alone if you leave it alone.

Train travel in Thailand

Before going to Thailand some friends recommended getting around on the sleeper trains in Thailand.  I enjoyed the trains for 3 reasons:

  1. I got a pretty good nights sleep on the train, particularly when on the bottom bunk
  2. It felt much safer than getting minibuses and buses over long distances. It felt immensely safer than a sleeper bus that we took in Cambodia.  I can’t speak for the sleeper buses in Thailand as we didn’t take one.
  3. We got to see some great scenery once it got light out especially by walking down the train to the restaurant car with open windows.

We did also take an internal flight and got a lot of minibuses around which seems mandatory in Thailand unless you want to spend lots of money on private taxis.  We did sometimes do this but tried to keep it to a minimum.

To book our train tickets we used a website called 12 Go Asia. I am not affiliated with this website in any way. The first time we booked online and then picked up the tickets from their office near Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok.  The second time we picked up from the parcels office at the station itself in Surat Thani. Both times we travelled 2nd class AC which was comfortable and even had some decent food on board for reasonable prices.

Since you will be most likely travelling with your luggage and clothing it should not be a problem but be warned that they crank the AC and the top bunks in particular get freezing.  Have some warmer clothing handy.

Below are some pictures I took on our journeys and some descriptions. If you have the time definitely get the sleeper trains in Thailand! There is some video of the trains and beds in my Planes, Trains and Tuk Tuk’s video here.

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Surat Thani Station
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The trains are quite long so give yourself lots of time to get to your carriage

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Outside the station there were lots of people sleeping overnight to wait for their morning train. I think some of these people were homeless as well.
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The Monks get their own waiting area. I did ask permission to take this and they kindly let me.
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If you don’t buy your tickets online then you can buy here. I am not sure how much of a challenge this is but most likely easier than buying train tickets in India which is whole other story that I will write about sometime.
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We got the train to Chiang Mai the first time.
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Head to this car when it gets light out to get a nice view.
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Some last minute welding…
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Comfortable lower bunk. We put our big backpacks in their flight bags as the train stops very often and people get on and off a lot so you never know if someone might try to steal things while you sleep.
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I am 6ft tall and was comfortable on the lower bunk. The upper was long enough but a bit narrow for me. This was partially because I slept with my camera bag next to me for safety.
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Beautiful scenery on the way to Chiang Mai.