Markets throughout Thailand are photogenic places. Whether it's fresh seafood, exotic fruit and veg or just souvenirs, there’s often an opportunity to see something a little different. But there’s one market in Thailand where you can see something that’s more than just a little different. Something strange and as far as I know, unique.
This is Maeklong Railway Market in Samut Songkhram, where they hold a daily market on an active railway track. And I do mean on the track, not near or around, but on the railway line itself. When a train comes along the vendors pull back their stalls, which they have on wheels, and lift back their awnings. Because of this, it’s known locally as ‘Talad Rom Hoop,’ roughly translated ‘Umbrella pull-down market.’
What’s striking the first time you see a train pass through, is how close the vendors leave their produce to the track. They’ve worked out to the last inch where the trains wheels and footplates will pass and only move back as much as they need to. They leave no margin for error.
This market is about 40 miles (65km) southwest of Bangkok. The quickest way to reach it is by a minivan, departing from Victory Monument and taking just over an hour.
If you have more time, catching the train will give you an onboard view of the market. Trains depart Bangkok from Wongwian Yai Station on the west side of the Chao Phraya River. The easiest way to reach this station is via the BTS overhead railway. Take the BTS to Wongwian Yai (BTS station) and walk north to the landline station which shares the same name. You should note that this line is cut in two by the Tha Chin River where there is no bridge. So, from Wongwian Yai you must buy a ticket to the last stop, Maha Chai station (Samut Sakhon), then take a ferry across the Tha Chin River and buy another ticket from Ban Laem to Maeklong where you'll find the market. It’s not too difficult, just go to the last stop on both lines. Be aware that this is an extremely slow train, the minivans are much quicker.
It’s also possible to see the Maeklong Railway Market as part of a tour group from Bangkok. These tours usually also include the nearby river markets. Many agencies in Bangkok offer this, and if time is tight, it’s a good option to make sure you see a bit of everything.
If you have time to spare, I would recommend staying a day or two in Samut Songkhram. It’s a nice place and there are many things to see and do. Besides the Railway Market, there are also many floating markets, such as Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa. Staying overnight also means you can get to the markets before the crowds arrive from Bangkok and do things at your own pace. I took this option and stayed a few nights at a hotel in Amphawa, using local taxis to reach the various tourist attractions.