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.
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.
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).
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).
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:
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.