This market has quite the history behind it. While it isn’t well document, according to locals in 1906, the government authorized building a train station with tracks running right through what was then one of Thailand’s largest vegetable and seafood markets. The vendors were told to relocate but in protest decided not to. In 1907 they began holding their market right on the train tracks and would just move each time a train came through. What is document enough, is that they have battled many governments and authorities to keep this market going for decades now.
When we went just the other day in June 2014, the market still has vendors set up right touching the tracks. The area shoppers walk is on the train tracks only, and a lot of this is practically in a tunnel or are cornered in by market stands. 7 times per day a train runs through there and the vendors quickly pull their produce or other times for sale back and the shoppers find a place to stand inside where food or other items for sale previously were. As the train comes by people are standing mere inches from it.
I’ve seen many videos on TV about this market and have been intrigued reading about the history of it. I finally got a chance to visit a few days ago. Our timing however did not work out for seeing a train. What is amazing is even though we speak Thai no one knew when the next train was coming. It was 12:30 and one vendor said probably 2PM. Another vendor said the train is under repairs and might not be there till 3PM or 3:30PM and suggested we go to the main station to ask as all trains have been delayed.
The fact vendors didn’t know when the next train would come just shows how casual they all are about the fact a massive train is passing by their market. When hearing it is coming through they just grab and move things back and watch others scurry to a safe place to stand. I’ve seen this on TV, but not wanting to wait around for next train, I rather just enjoyed just taking a quick walk along the tracks.
A tip: Maeklong Market is most often called the Train Market in English, but in Thai is referred to as Talad-Rom-Hoob - ตลาดร่มหุบ which does not transliterate the same. This is best to visit on a weekend, combining it with Damnoen Saduak Floating market, which is 20 minute drive away and open on Saturday and Sunday’s only and only from 8AM to 11AM, and with Amphawa Floating Market which is also only open on Saturday and Sunday and is 10 minutes or less away. The Amphawa one opens earlier but is a nightmarket. Many of the stands do not open until 3PM. If to Amphawa early there are boat tours available that stop at a couple neat to see temples.
Now all this said this Maeklong Train Market in Samut Songkhram really isn’t all that interesting. It is mostly just fruit and vegetables for sale and is the same stuff found in any fresh market anywhere in Thailand. The city surrounding it might be neat to tourist who have only been to beaches, Chiang Mai and Bangkok and never seen a local Thai city of this sort. To most however, the area around just looks like the city area of any semi-well populated sub-district. The market isn’t very well organized, nor do they do a lot to capitalize on the fact that tourists visit here. The local officials could do MUCH more with this. I rate it average, but still it is really neat to see and worth the quick stop if combining it with other things in the area. At lease one of Damnoen Saduak Floating market, and Amphawa Floating Market, if not both.
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