An amazing market on rail tracks
We heard the whistle blow, but it was not hundred miles away, in fact it was less than hundred yards away. Vendors and sellers slowly but methodically starts moving their belongings and umbrellas from the railway track, which passes straight through the centre of the market (See: Video).
As the train chugs in closer the train sounds its horn every now and then warning people of its inevitable passing through the crowded market place. Yes this is the Maeklong Railway Market in Samut Songkhram province of Thailand barely a couple of hours drive from Bangkok.
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 (ตลาดร่มหุบ) which translates into “Umbrella Pulldown Market.”
Baskets of goods are dragged away from the tracks, the overhead tents are drawn back and the tracks are cleared, making way for the train. Some of the shopkeepers let it be, so sure are they that the train’s metal wheels will not touch their wares. Those hoping to capture a photo are waved back by those who suspect they are a little too close for comfort to the tracks.
Everything happens so calmly and with such clockwork precision that it’s difficult to fathom it could be a matter of life and death. The train runs so close that you can almost touch it or even shake hands with the engine driver, or “captain”, as they are called.
A total of eight train pass through the Maeklong Rail Market daily. The timing are as follows (6:20 am, 8:30 am, 9:00 am, 11:10 am. 11:30 am, 2:30 pm, 3:30 pm and 5:40 pm) but in Thailand trains don’t usually run in time.
Tourist are advised to reach the market at least half an hour before the train schedule as the market itself is worth exploring.
Food happens to be the main attraction of the market and chilled coconut water along with its tender flesh sells like hot cake during the summer months. Ice creams of different varieties, including coconut ice cream are also in the top selling list. There is even a small cafe next to the track.
The majority of the shops sells an assortment of fresh raw sea food including giant sized crabs and lobsters.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are also sold in large quantities and so is dried fish. There are also stall selling clothing and accessories, including brightly coloured shoes.
If you reach early take a short coconut break and walk along the track towards the Maeklong Station. It is an interesting walk and the more adventurer ones can try their hand on Dragon Fruit and Durian.
Walk along the meter guage single line rail track and cross a level crossing to enter the Maeklong Railway Station. The market extends into the railway station. It is best to wait in the railway station for the train to arrive.
As soon as the train arrives walk back to the market and find a strategic spot to catch the return train chug past you. It is an exciting photo or video opportunity not only for the people along the tracks but also for the train passengers
Although Maeklong Railway Market can be visited in a day trip from Bangkok it is advisable to stay a night in the Amphawa Region, which will provide an opportunity of exploring the Amphawa Floating Market. An over night tour can also provide the opportunity of experiencing the Khon Mask making at Bhutesavara and the community based tourism at Ban Bang Phalp.
- Aso Lori (TAT, New Delhi) and Sajid Khan (Thai Airways, Kolkata)
- My fellow FAM participants Amit Sachdev (Unique Air Travels), Sanjay Kr Kothari (Just Holidays), Vandana Arya (Gainwell Leisure Holidays), Piyush Banerjee (Discovery Holidays), Asif Alim (Neptune Holidays) and Nandini Gangully (T2, The Telegraph)