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Even after more than three and a half years based in Thailand, I still learn, discover or see something new every single day. Every time I come back to the country, people will ask me why – haven’t I seen enough?
The short answer is, because I love it, and, no.
There are still entire regions of Thailand I haven’t stepped foot in, things I haven’t seen and customs I don’t understand (or even know about yet). The country is much more than shopping in Bangkok, beaches on the biggest islands, or staying in the city center in Chiang Mai, and most of it is pretty dang fascinating, like the fact that in Samut Songkhram, a central province southwest of Bangkok, there’s a fresh market built up around active train tracks.
Only in Thailand.
Maeklong Market (ตลาดแม่กลอง), locally known as Talad Rom Hoop (ตลาดร่มหุบ), is just your normal daily market selling meat and produce except for several times a day when a passenger train rolls through forcing vendors to pull back their awnings and market goers to stand away from the tracks.
The market is a big one, known for its seafood, but most of the tourists tend to walk the narrow part along the tracks waiting for the train to come and the show to begin.
Once a loudspeaker announces that the train is coming, the vendors (pretty slowly) move in the posts holding up their awnings to let the train pass through.
The passenger train, which comes from Bangkok, slowly rumbles through the market and once it’s passed the vendors immediately set up the awnings again and go about their business.
I’ve read about the “crazy” and “dangerous” market before, but actually – though incredible to see – it didn’t seem that crazy or dangerous. Strange for sure, but simply part of everyday life for the people working or shopping in the market. Or maybe I’ve just been in Thailand too long and have a warped sense of what seems reasonable…
Supposedly, the market was an important part of the community before the train tracks were built and, when told there would be a new railway coming through, the locals refused to move. Now the market draws local and foreign tourists to watch the spectacle everyday but, since it’s in a rather out-of-the-way location, there still weren’t too many people and the market itself is not touristy or been kept up for show – it’s one of the main markets in town and caters specifically to those who live there. That said, I was visiting during the low season and I’m sure there are more tour buses going in during the high season.
As with most things in Thailand the market goes by several names including, the Maeklong Train Market, Maeklong Market, Maeklong Railway Market and Talad Rom Hoop (or Hoob). Not confusing at all. However, if you simply say you want to visit the Maeklong Market in Samut Songkhram, people should know what you’re talking about.
You can search online and in tourist shops for tours to the market, which is located a couple hours away from Bangkok, or handle transportation yourself by either taking a minibus shuttle straight to Maeklong (แม่กลอง) from Victory Monument or riding on the Maeklong Train to experience the market from both the train and on the ground.
From Bangkok take the train from Wongwian Yai train station (close to the Wongwian Yai BTS station – from the BTS station take Exit 3 then walk toward Wongwian Yai on Somdet Phra Chao Tak Sin Road) to Maha Chai Station. Walk to the ferry terminal (left out of the station about 100 meters) and take the ferry to Ban Laem train station. From here you can get on the train to Maeklong station and the market.
Note that the train schedules change often and don’t necessarily run on time. See if your guesthouse or hotel can help you find the current time schedule before heading to the station. If you can’t find times, I’d try to get to the Wongwian Yai train station by 8:00 to start your journey. (When I visited the market we thought we’d see the train coming through around 1:15 p.m. but it ended up being closer to 2:00 p.m. so who knows what time it actually left Ban Laem Station.)
From Bangkok, take the Skytrain to Victory Monument. Leave out of Exit 4 and follow the pedestrian overpass until reaching stairs to get down to ground level. There are a number of minimizes going to different destinations, like Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi so it will take a bit of walking to find one going to Maeklong (แม่กลอง) in Samut Songkhram (สมุทรสงคราม) – be sure to have the places written down in Thai to help you recognize the sign or ask someone to point you in the right direction. Tickets should be around 70 baht per person and the minibus will take you directly to the town close to the market (about 90 minutes one way). For a thorough breakdown of how to get there, check out this post from The Whole World is a Playground.
Visiting the Maeklong Railway Market is a solid day trip from Bangkok and easily will take up most of your morning and afternoon whether you’re going on your own or with a group. The market is relatively close to the famous Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak floating markets so you could potentially combine the two for an extra long day or spend the night in one place or the other and hit one market one day and the other the next. The floating markets are only on the weekends, but the railway market is open everyday and, at the time I visited, has trains passing through four times a day.
While the train does not pass quickly through the market, you still need to be careful and stand back.
Note: I was a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and TBEX Asia 2015, but all experiences and opinions are my own and I was thrilled to finally this market for the first time.