A Unique Railroad Market in Thailand

As I was researching all that there was to do in Bangkok so I could narrow down the options to fit our time there, a friend who had spent a few weeks in Bangkok recently gave me an excellent pair of recommendations on what to do off-the-beaten path.  Liz, my friend, suggested that she put me in touch with a local guide that had taken her outside of Bangkok for a day trip exploring the countryside and a peculiar market.  We did not have a whole day to spare so I asked the local guide, Al, if it were possible to shrink the trip to half a day.  Thankfully, it was doable despite the 1.5 hr ride each from and to the city.  My fellow traveler, Phil, also thought it would be cool to get out of the city so I confirmed with Al that it was a go.

Both of Liz’ recommendations would take us to the Samut Songkhram province, just about southwest of Bangkok towards the sea.  And the first of the two items on the agenda was to see the unique railroad market there by the Maeklong train station.  We had to be there by a certain time to catch the train passing through the market but it looked like we were going to miss it by like 5-10 minutes; I was bummed but was accepting that it was just going to have to be this way.  But, we got lucky!  The train actually passed through like 5-10 minutes AFTER we arrived at the market.

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, vegetables

The Maeklong train station at the end of the market

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, vegetables

The railroad tracks

Space is at a premium in this market and, as you can see in the pictures, the goods spill over just about to the railroad tracks.  Shoppers -and tourists- walk within the railroad tracks to cross the market.  The market in this part is a food market:  vegetables, fruit, chicken, fish, crabs, etc. abound – and all look pretty darn fresh.

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, vegetables

Keep at eye out on the baskets on the right when you watch the video below

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Lots of chicken

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7, crab, seafood

Fresh crab

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Fresh squid

Announcements are made over loudspeakers (in Thai) to warn folks ahead of time that the train is approaching.  I was wondering how these folks would clear out quickly; they barely seemed to be moving or noticing that the train was coming except for the folks closing the canopies that provide shade to the market.  A couple of items on the ground were moved but most stayed put.  I was unclear how well the train would clear the goods, especially the two baskets left between the tracks (you can see what happened in the video clip).

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7,

Clearing the way for the train!

Then the train came.  It was crawling as it crossed the market which made sense given the tight quarters around it (also, unbeknownst to me, the train station was at the far end of the market).

Maeklong, railroad, train, market, Thailand, Bangkok, photo, travel, explore, Samsung Galaxy S7,

The train goes through the market

The slow speed allowed us to enjoy the moment.  As soon as the train passed, canopies were opened again and things returned to normal!   It was fascinating to see this place – here is a very amateur video showing the scene:

Bangkok, railroad market, Thailand, Mae Klong, travel, photo, train, market

Yep, it came that close! (Photo courtesy of my fellow traveler Phil I. – I crouched low taking video, he stayed standing for photos!)

What to Know

  • The train does not come through all the time.  We aimed for the 9AM passing of the train; the next train that day was to be sometime around 11AM.  I did not have to look up the timetable as we were being taken to see it but be sure you know that day when it will come through.
  • I would have, with more time, walked around more outside of the part of the market on the tracks.  The area looked interesting.
  • If you plan well, combine doing the railroad market with visiting the Amphawa floating market which only opens certain days of the week.  It is one of the more famous floating markets near Bangkok and, from everything I heard, well worth the visit.  Unfortunately, we only had a full day to go see the railroad market and it happened to be on a day when the floating market was closed.

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Essaouira: A Surprise on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco

When I decided to go to Morocco, my images of the country were more of what I encountered when I got to Marrakesh (though Marrakesh was so pretty that I didn’t expect every town in the country to look like that).  But, after an overnight in Marrakesh, we left the next morning to the coastal town of Essaouira (once known as Mogador a long time ago and pronounced something like “Ah swear” as the final vowel sounds silent to English speakers).  I had signed up to do my third trek with Trekking for Kids to help improve the lives of orphaned or at-risk children around the world and the center where we were going to work was located in this seaside town.  (Check out the work done at Bayti Centre here.)

The town of Essaouira – not the Morocco I expected

Upon arriving in Essaouira, it felt different.  That was likely due to it being a coastal town with nice beaches and the accompanying tourism infrastructure (I suspect the main source of tourists is domestic followed perhaps by those from neighboring Arab or European countries).  It looked clean and was not too crowded.  The town, currently with about 70,000 inhabitants, was a fort originally established by the Portuguese centuries ago and was coveted by all major European powers.  The town proper was begun to be built in the 18th century by Mohammed III.  I learned after leaving that scenes of the movie “Othello” by Orson Wells were filmed in the streets of the city.

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No, those are not Star Wars characters but palm trees held while they grow so they don’t blow away

We got to our hotel, the Riad Zahra Morgador, and I was very pleased.  It was beautiful and the staff very friendly.  I enjoyed our stay there in every way, except the wifi only really worked in the lobby.

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A welcome treat!

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The room I stayed at, spacious and comfortable

Riad Zahra Morgador, Essaouira, Morocco, room, hotel, travel, photo

The staircase at the Riad

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Did I mention the pool guest?

Among the many surprises was the climate.  Of course, I expected being on the coast meant sea breezes and slightly cooler temperatures than Marrakesh (which had hovered round 100 F when I was there).  But they were much cooler, like in the low 70s for THE HIGH!  A strong sea breeze contributed to actually feeling a little cold even before the sun set as we walked along the beaches one day.  And on the beaches for the visitors, there are camels… for the ride.  Some of my fellow trekkers decided to try their hand at riding a camel but first… one must successfully get on one!

Essaouira’s Old Medina

Another big surprise was the general personality, if you will, of the town.  People were not all over you like in Marrakesh.  They were more relaxed, I’d say.  Even in the market (or “souk”), I didn’t feel hounded.  People would certainly invite you to look at their wares, etc. but once you stepped way or said no, they were very respectful.  Given my temperament, this was more conducive for me to actually engage in more meaningful dialogue with store clerks than I would otherwise be inclined to be.  It led to a more enjoyable experience for sure.  It also led to me buying more as I normally shy away from aggressive sales tactics (which I understand are normal in some places).  Essaouira, Morocco, souk, market, Old Medina, food, bread

Old Medina, Hats, souk, Essaouira, Morocco, market, goods, colorful, travel, photo, Olympus

Colorful wares!

Old Medina, pottery, earthenware,, souk, Essaouira, Morocco, market, goods, colorful, travel, photo, Olympus

And more color and patterns

I found it fascinating to see guys pushing these massive carts loaded with fruit through the throngs of people – masters of their craft!Essaouira, Morocco, souk, market, Old Medina, food, fruit, Samsung Galaxy Essaouira, Morocco, souk, market, Old Medina, food, fruit, Olympus Essaouira, Morocco, souk, market, Old Medina, food, fruit, Samsung GalaxyI enjoyed walking around the Old Medina where I felt very safe so I could admire the details of the architecture around. Old Medina, souk, Essaouira, Morocco, market, goods, colorful, travel, photo, Olympus Old Medina, souk, Essaouira, Morocco, market, goods, colorful, travel, photo, Olympus Old Medina, souk, Essaouira, Morocco, market, goods, colorful, travel, photo, Olympus

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Pharmacy near the land-side gate into the Old Medina

A sweet tooth is always one in the U.S. or in Morocco!

However, all is not architecture and fruit carts.  A stop at a local patisserie on the edge of the Old Medina towards the beach (Pátisserie Driss) delivers delicious sweets and coffee!

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Ahhhh!!!

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Mmm…

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Double mmm…!

Essaouira’s old walls

On my first day, we explored the North Bastion with its old Portuguese cannons and the sea walls.  On another day, we got to spend time along the South Bastion next to Bab Marrakesh (the gate to Marrakesh from the walled Old Medina) where I took some of the sunset pictures shown later in this post.

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The Old Medina sea wall (ramparts) are now the perfect setting for shops

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Cannons along the sea wall

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The group of Trekking for Kids trekkers at the North Bastion

And the sunset photos…

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Approaching the Old Medina at dusk

Old Medina, city walls, sunset, Essaouira, Morocco, market, goods, colorful, travel, photo, Olympus

City walls and the Old Medina as seen at sunset from the South Bastion

Old Medina, city walls, sunset, Essaouira, Morocco, market, goods, colorful, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Sunset over the Old Medina from the South Bastion

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Sunset along the beach – and me

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Photobombing my sunset picture…

So, all around, Essaouira was a pleasant surprise; different than the Morocco I expected.  Here is to good surprises!!!

Djema el-Fna: The Central Square in Marrakesh – Full of Life!

Market time!  Marrakesh has a very lively market, Jamaa el Fna (or Djema el-Fna) spread out over the same-named square, second most famous square in African after Cairo’s Tahrir Square.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so that should command some attention, right?

Of course, the souks (or alleys) of the medina are full of shops but it is this square that is the main scene.  At night, the market is teeming with life.  Locals and tourists alike enjoy all it offers.  The range of items for sale, be them food or other goods is wide.  Eateries can be found all around from the basic to the restaurants.  Of course, be ready for the extra “persuasiveness” of any of the sellers around.  It is intense to walk around (a little bit of a turn-off for me).  You can also see diverse live animals to charm you.  But feeling the place’s vibrancy makes it a must-see and must-walk-around.  Perhaps even buying a thing or two?

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Dates, dates, dates

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So many orange juice carts! Must be a lot of thirsty people around…

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Food stalls, like these with spices, add a lot of color -and aromas- to the scene.

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Beautiful lamp

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And back to food after that lamp!

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Continuing with the food vendors…

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Dried figs!

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The baked goods could not be far behind!

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One of the many casual eateries in the square; more formal ones can be found in its periphery

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Soft drinks are part of an entertainer’s set up in the square

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Many restaurants all around

Djema el-Fna, Morocco, food stand, medina, Djemaa el Fna, Jemaa el-Fnaa, Canon EOS Rebel

So whether during a short visit like mine or one that allows you exploring every nook and cranny of ‘kesh, don’t miss out on an evening out at Jemaa el-Fnaa!

 

Photo Essay – Colors of Jordan

Before my trip to Jordan, I had this mental image that Jordan was mostly a desert. I knew Jordan faced the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea and I recalled from my quick visit to Petra (on a day trip from Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt), that Petra would have some reddish color to it. But it’s like, if I thought how Jordan would look like, I would have said “fairly mono-chromatic”.

OK, I exaggerate a little.  But the range of vivid colors I encountered during my visit became quite apparent once I was home walking through each of the 3,000+ pictures I took during my 9 days there (yes, quite a few were duplicates as I tried different settings and angles for a given “scene”; so far I am down to around 2,000).  What I found out is that that desert color was a perfect background for all the others colors to pop.  And pop they did!

So, I have decided to share where I found color that caught my eye that will, hopefully, give you a glimpse into Jordan!  When you are done, I would love to hear back from you on which of these photos you like the most (photos are numbered for ease of reference!).

I found color in the landscapes in Jordan…

Much as I had experienced back in 1998, I got to see the colors typically associated with deserts.  But on this trip, I also saw the color of canyons and gorges.  White, sand, red – all colors represented in the landscape around me as I hope the following pictures show…

Desert road Jordan

1. On the way to Mt. Nebo from Mardaba – sand color everywhere except the asphalt

Sand dune Wadi Rum Jordan

2. Shifting sands in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan

Wadi between Dana and Feynan, Jordan Olympus

3. Canyon we hiked through from Dana to Feynan – great mix of white and red with specks of green on the mountains around us

Canyon walls in Petra Jordan with Canon Rebel

4. Colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan!

Colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan Canon Rebel

5. More colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan

Colorful rocks in Wadi Mujib, Jordan Olympus camera

6. Colorful rocks in the waters of Wadi Mujib, Jordan

Colorful rocks in Wadi Mujib, Jordan Olympus camera

7. Colorful rocks in the walls Wadi Mujib, Jordan

I found color in the markets of Jordan…

Jewelry sold by folks around Petra, Jordan

8. Jewelry sold by folks around Petra

Camels with color in Jordan

9. Who knew camels would be so colorful!

Arab headscarves in Jordan Canon Rebel

10. Headscarves in the traditional colors worn by many around Jordan

Fruits in the fruit stands in the market in Amman, Jordan Canon Rebel

11. Fruits in the fruit stands in the market in Amman, Jordan

Colorful market roof in the Amman, Jordan market Canon Rebel

12. Colorful market roof in the Amman, Jordan market

I found color in the architecture – old and new – in Jordan…

Ruins column Jerash Roman Jordan

13.  Color of old ruins in the Greco-Roman town of Jerash, Jordan

Ruins Jerash column blue sky Jordan

14.  A still-standing column in Jerash makes a great contrast with the perfectly blue sky

King Abdullah Mosque blue Amman, Jordan

15.  The blues of the dome of King Abdullah’s Mosque (the Blue Mosque) of Amman and the blue of the sky

Inside view of the dome of King Abdullah's Mosque in Amman, Jordan (blue mosque)

16.  Inside view of the dome of King Abdullah’s Mosque (built in the 1980s)

Petra's Treasury in Jordan

17.  The unforgettable Treasury at Petra, Jordan

I found great blues in the waters around Jordan…

Blue sky and Dead Sea

18. A sea and a sky both drapped in great blue!

Beautiful blues in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba, Olympus

19.  Beautiful blues in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba

I found color in sunsets over the Dead Sea…

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Canon EOS Rebel

20.  Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Olympus

21.  Double sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Canon EOS Rebel

22.  Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

I found color in Jordanian artisans’ art…

Raw material for creation of mosaic art in workshop in Jordan

23.  The raw materials that will create beautiful mosaics are colorful on their own…

Mosaic art Jordan

24. Mosaic art: not only the great colors but also the shapes draw me

Art handicraft craft Jordan

25.  Beautiful art in this colorful vase

And I found a colorful people in Jordan!

Schoolchildren in Jerash, Jordan

26.  Schoolchildren visiting the ruins of Jerash – singing and showing their pride in their country – a colorful bunch!

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Thank you to the Jordan Tourism Board for showing me all the colors in Jordan.

Pin Jordan to your travel board!!!

Jordan, Canyon, color, nature, outdoors, adventure, photo, travel, explore

Photo of the Week – Santiago’s Fresh Seafood at the Mercado Central

I loved spending a year in Santiago, Chile with the Andes as a majestic backdrop and in a country that offers so many beautiful landscapes from deserts in the north to fjords in the south.

One of my favorite places in Santiago is the Mercado Central where one cannot only shop for fresh seafood but, actually, sit down and have some lunch on said seafood, accompanied, of course, with a nice Chilean white wine.

But don’t only stop to eat.  Walk around and check out the colorful – and slightly smelly – stands!

Seafood at the Mercado Central in Santiago, Chile

 

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