3 Special Railways & Trains in Southeast Asia

At the first glance, many railways look the same. But some definitely stands out not only because of their construction or use but also because of their importance in history. Below are some of the most amazing train rides around Southeast Asia. Several of these unique railway tracks are fully operating lines, while others operate today only as tourist attractions.

Railway Market in Maeklong

The Maeklong Railway Market has been around since 1905, located an hour’s drive southwest from the outskirts of Bangkok. Fishing was (and still is) one of the main livelihoods of the people who lived here, and the market was another way in which to sell their goods. Officials decided to build a railway in order to better deliver these goods to provinces around Thailand, including the capital. The market remained, however, despite the new tracks that cut through it.

Trains move on the railway, through and over the market several times a day. A charming little warning bell goes off over the speaker system just a few minutes before the train comes. Within a few minutes of receiving the warning, vendors pull back their specially designed awnings before the train comes, sometimes only moments before. That’s why the market is locally known as the Talat Rom Hoop which translates into ‘Market Umbrella Close’.

Death Railway in Kanchanaburi

Thai – Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, is a 415 km railway between Bangkok and Rangoon, built by the Empire of Japan in 1943. It is, in short, a horrendous part of Thailand’s history that was created by the blood and sweat of WWII prisoners of war and Asian slave laborers. More than 90,000 workers and 16,000 Allied prisoners of war died during the construction of this railway,

The two-hour journey along the notorious Thailand–Burma Death Railway from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok is one of Thailand’s most scenic and most popular train rides. Though the views are lovely, it’s the history that makes the ride so special, so it’s worth visiting the Thailand–Burma Railway Centre in Kanchanaburi before making the trip. A good tip, to get the best views, is to make sure you sit on the right-hand side of the train on the journey back to Kanchanaburi, and on the left-hand side when travelling towards Nam Tok.

Bamboo Train in Battambang

For a completely unique railway experience, head to the small town of Battambang, around a three and half hour drive from Siem Reap. Here, you will find the ‘train’, a bamboo platform powered by a small motor. Travelling on a one-track railway through the untamed countryside, at times, you’ll meet with a returning train; this involves the driver dismantling your vehicle by hand and lifting it off the tracks to allow the other to pass. It is an exceptional and fun way to appreciate the Cambodian scenery.

Bamboo Train in Battambang, Thailand

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