April 29, 2022

The Maeklong Market Train

One rather unusual train ride has been growing in popularity with travellers here in Bangkok for a few years now. It is not actually one train, but two and with a river crossing thrown in too. Departing from the little known and quite hard to find Wong Wian Yai station, it travels to Mahachai and then over the river and a second train to Maeklong, which is about 50 kilometres outside the city. There are plenty of trains on the first section, but currently only four per day on the final leg, making it hard to do without devoting a full day to the trip.

One of the local names for the market that sits right in front of the station is the ‘dangerous market’, and it’s easy to see why. When I say at the front of the station, I mean on the railway line, not next to it! It’s not particularly dangerous to the everyday buyers and sellers who know the drill, but to the selfie addicted tourists who now flock to see the incoming train.

Okay, at this point, I have to admit that I didn’t take the train all the way – I didn’t have time and also wanted to see the train arrive from the ground level, so I recruited a local guide called Kiwi to join me for the day. She knew the timetable so we were in just the right spot five minutes before the arrival of the 11.10am train. The right spot being her mother’s little fruit shop trackside.

Looking at the market along the railway line you seee an almost impenetrable route past many market stalls busy with porters delivering goods and locals haggling. Overhead are essential awnings to keep the catch of the day out the sun and make the heat slightly less oppressive for shoppers.

Five minutes before the arrival of the train, and a tannoy announcement from the station announces the arrival of the incoming train… but no body takes any notice. In fact it is only when the horn of the train itself blasts 100 metres away that a frenzied effort to remove the awnings and pull back the stalls begins. Kiwi’s mum moves a few buckets out the way to give me a good spot, and Kiwi reminds me about the difference between ‘safe’ and ‘not safe’ – three concrete sleepers width each side of the line is apparently the tourist kill zone..

I knew what was going to happen, but it still took my breath away – the train passes by inches from my nose and the carriages slowly pass literally over the top of the trays of fruit and vegetables at my feet. Only in Thailand (and possibly also Vietnam!).

No tourists were killed during my trip, but if you are planning to visit, take care and remember to stay three sleepers back from the track!

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