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What is it actually like to travel by train in Cambodia in 2023?

What is it actually like to travel by train in Cambodia in 2023?

Built by the French in the 1930s, Cambodia’s railway network was brought to a halt by the Khmer Rouge, now it’s getting back on track

Here’s one for the train nerds.

Cambodia’s national railway network was built in the 1930s, but it gradually fell into disuse with the rise of the Khmer Rouge.

Even after the regime’s fall, including throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s, ambushes by remaining Khmer Rouge bandits were common along Cambodia’s train lines.

Ambushes were common along Cambodia’s train lines and carriages were fitted out with armoured plates

Carriages were fitted out with armoured plates and many Aussies might remember the kidnapping of David Wilson along with two other backpackers from England and France in 1994 after they defied travel warnings and took the train to Sihanoukville from Phnom Penh.

Travelling by rail in Cambodia is a great way to see the countryside

The train was raided and the three of them were taken hostage to a Khmer Rouge base just outside of Kampot where they were eventually murdered after their respective governments refused to pay the $50,000 per head ransoms.

Even when I was backpacking through Cambodia 20 years ago, the Lonely Planet guide that we all used, still warned of banditry outside the major cities.

Rail services ceased in 2002 and it wasn’t until 2016 that passenger services finally resumed along the very stretch of track that Wilson and his mates were taken hostage.

These days it’s a very comfortable, enjoyable and safe trip, far from what it must’ve been like back in 1994, but yes, I did spare a thought for the travellers and what they must’ve been feeling as our train lurched and rolled through some of Cambodia’s most picturesque terrain almost 30 years after the event.

Watch the video below to find out more about how to travel by train in Cambodia.

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