A Short Story
Visiting Thailand’s Maeklong Train Market
Thailand is known for its “water markets” and they are a magnet for tourists as guides load visitors into boats and float them through these interesting markets. The floating water markets are really colorful with shops that sell everything from snakes to furniture with generous offerings of souvenirs as well. But this market is different and its focus is that of a local farmers market.
We woke up early on the morning of our second day in Bangkok and headed out to see this very unusual marketplace. About forty minutes out of the city is a market set-up in the middle of an active train line. It runs for several blocks through town along the railroad tracks with vendors displaying their fruits, produce and seafood on both sides of the tracks. There are stalls and tables on wheels with awnings that stretch across the tracks. Shoppers walk on the track’s ties as they examine the offerings.
We arrived in the morning as we were warned that by afternoon on a warm day the smells of the seafood can get a bit overwhelming. The market was packed with shoppers along with a fair number of tourists as we all walked along the tracks. On either side there were a number of cafes with the side on the tracks wide open and people sitting and enjoying coffee and tea. At one end most vendors were displaying produce with a couple of hard goods merchants here and there.
As we worked our way though the market there was a change in the activity around us and in the distance a train horn sounded. Quickly awnings were cranked back off the tracks and stalls were moved away from the tracks. From the direction we came from you could make out the shiny metal of a train engine with orange and yellow stripes coming towards us. It moved slow and as it sounded its horn people pushed back to clear the actual tracks. As we stood there, as far back as we could get the train moved past with only a foot between us.
After the train went by we walked on past the seafood sellers which was alive with shoppers and marine life and the market ended right at the platform of the Maeklong train station.
As we travel we’ve visited probable hundreds of “farmers markets” from Tahiti to Italy, Alaska to Argentina but the Maeklong Train Market is the one that sticks out the most.