“Maeklong Railway Market”
Mae Klong, Thailand. (12 photos)
About 90 minutes by road to the southwest of Bangkok – and that seriously depends on Bangkok’s notorious traffic – one finds the Maeklong Railway Market. It’s a traditional Thai market active since about 1905 predominantly selling fresh vegetables, meats, seafood, sweets, fruits, flowers and clothing in the province of Samut Songkhram. A local market really, but its novelty for the tourist who makes their way out there is that the market sits on the local railway tracks.
“Did you hear that?”
It’s not particularly ergonomically friendly. The walking surface is uneven, the tracks are a tripping hazard, and passing other people and vendors with carts on the tracks can be difficult.
But then a train whistle is heard and with military precision and timing the vendors spring into action.
Awnings and umbrellas are closed and retracted. Locally the market is known as the Talat Rom Hoop which translates into “Umbrella Close Market.” Carts and baskets of goods are moved back from the tracks, but only just enough – the vendors know how far they need to go. Produce on trays are left in position if they are low enough.
“Here it comes”
And the local train appears.
Local workers take a break because they know no business will occur as the train passes. Tourists go into a photography frenzy.
Some tourists also ride the local train for this experience.
With only millimetres to spare sometimes, the train travels over the produce that has been left on sheets on the ground, and skims past those standing close to the tracks. I don’t recommend reaching out to touch the train as it passes.
“And then it’s gone”
The train passes by and as quickly as the market was closed for the train, so the market springs back to life. Everything is returned to where it was before the train came through.
“Train, what train?”
Within seconds of the train passing, the markets are back to full activity.
Maeklong Railway Station is an end station, so about 30 minutes after the train came through, it came back.
“Here we go again”
Everyone knows what to do. It’s an activity that happens up to 8 times a day.
“Slow but powerful locomotive”
The train isn’t going fast when it comes through the market but it’s fast enough. People have been injured and killed in the past for being disrespectful of safety and common-sense, and not getting out of the way of the oncoming train in time.
“Back to business”
Another one of those experiences of travel I won’t forget.