If you are in Bangkok and have an entire day without plans, head to the Maeklong Railway Market – here is everything you need to know before you visit.
The Maeklong Railway Market has been around since 1905. It is found in the province of Samut Songkhram, located on the Gulf of Thailand. 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.
What to expect
You will hear the train long before you actually see it. Vendors and merchants collectively begin to coolly move their belongings and umbrellas away from the tracks as the train barrels forward, laying on its horn every now and then to warn people of its inevitable passing; this is why the market is also known as the ‘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. Those hoping to capture a photo are waved back by those who suspect they are a little too close for comfort to the tracks. You will be able to spot those who work at the market and those who do not almost instantly; visitors of the market, whether they are Thai or foreigners, will have cell phones in hand, smiles on their faces, and will be shifting back and forth to position themselves for the perfect photo. Those who work there, however, watch this train go by up to eight times a day and get little to no thrill of its passing.
Watch as the food you are about to devour is literally run over by the train as it passes. The train is so close you can reach out and touch it as it zooms by, though we do not recommend doing this.
What to buy
The quality of this market lies in its novelty and the train that passes through … not necessarily its goods. It is here where you will find mainly food for sale. While there will certainly be some clothing and accessories available, the bulk of this market is made up of Thai sweets, meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits and drinks. If you were expecting a plethora of souvenirs, think again.
How to get there
You will find the Maeklong Railway Market about 80 kilometers outside of the city, located in the Samut Songkhram region. Depending on Bangkok’s traffic, it takes just over an hour to get there. There are a few ways you can get to this market – the first and certainly one of the most convenient ways is to take the BTS Skytrain to station Victory Monument and grab a minibus. These buses leave as soon as one is filled, so you never know when your departure time will be. Be sure to look up the train timetable before heading out so that you do not miss it. Be aware, however, that these times are subject to change, and the trains are oftentimes late.
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