Norrie Ride

Only in Cambodia - a must try

Photo of , , Battambang

What we say: 4.5 stars

The norries may soon be a thing of the past, so catch a ride while you can! Local authorities in the past have said they'll be closed permanently by the end of the 2010, but that deadline has been and gone.

Known locally as a norrie (or nori or nory), this unusual form of transport is a train made of bamboo – or, specifically, a bamboo platform positioned on two sets of bogies with a small motor stuck on the back.

A wooden stick serves as brake and accelerator. There's a mat laid on the wooden platform -- the 'deluxe' versions come with cushions (tuk tuk drivers may let you use the tuk tuk cushions) -- and passengers sit cross-legged on the mat.

When the road to Phnom Penh was upgraded, making it a five-hour or so ride, the 12-hour (on a good day) train services more or less ceased operating but locals continued to use the existing tracks for goods and passengers as a means of accessing Battambang town and its markets from outlying villages. Locals quickly caught on that they had an excellent, ready-made tourist attraction but as we said it began life as a legitimate form of local transport and plenty of villagers do still use it.

Tourists tend to favour early morning and late afternoon 'departures' when it's not so hot (the trains have no roof) -- the latter time can get very busy in high season. Rides usually take you to the first 'station' down the line where drinks and T-shirt vendors await or perhaps to a strategically located bridge for watching the sun set over paddy. Your ride will take 10 minutes or so each way and drivers are happy to wait for you for a dollar tip. Note the line heads southeast out of town so you more or less have to do the return trip since there's not anything to combine it with. It may look like an accident waiting to happen but we must have done it over 30 times without seeing any incidents -- so while it's not as bad as it looks, it's still a good idea to ask them to drive slowly!

There are definite plans to upgrade the old railway line eventually to link Phnom Penh to Bangkok but as of time of writing the bamboo train is still operating. Since the old line to Kampot has been upgraded though there are, to our knowledge, no other bamboo trains as tourist attractions in Cambodia.

The trains are limited to a maximum of four passengers and currently charge $5 per person.

Last reviewed by:
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.

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Read 3 opinions from Travelfish readers

  • Still Operating

    3rd April, 2012

    Still operating as of early April, 2012. Locals still saying it'll close forever very soon. Still a missable experience in my judgement.

    Norrie Ride reviewed by sullivanmarc (1)
    Written on 3rd April, 2012, rated 3 out of 5. Visited here in April, 2012

  • Nori / Bamboo Train Ride

    2nd July, 2011

    This is a must do. A friend and I did the train ride as part of a day out with a tuc tuc driver. The cost is $5 but well worth it. As you go through the countryside be prepared for a bumpy ride as the tracks are bent, not straight and sometimes don't meet. But what fun. When other traffic is coming you have to get off, offload the 'train' from the track and let them pass. Then on you go. At the end of our ride a few families have set up stalls to sell drinks. Be prepared to lose a dollar or so as they sell you palm toys and plastic bracelets. They are so friendly and eager to please that you don't mind at all. Then the ride back - this time you will take precedence and have right of way. A fun ride - get it while you can as they will cease to exist when the railway is updated.

    Norrie Ride reviewed by Prettyfish16 (2)
    Written on 2nd July, 2011, rated 5 out of 5. Visited here in July, 2011

  • Great fun

    18th March, 2011

    Wouldn't have missed this for the world. It was still open only 2 weeks ago and locals tell us it is now suggested that it might be closed later this year. Who knows? We really enjoyed our ride even though our children think that we have lost our sense of self-preservation.

    We were charged the huge sum of US$6 each for our ride as we had a 'train' of our own, but have also heard lots of other different charges. As it is owned by one family you pay what they ask or don't go.

    Norrie Ride reviewed by EdSue (1)
    Written on 18th March, 2011, rated 4 out of 5. Visited here in March, 2011

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