The toothless woman behind a pile of tentacles stares at me. It’s a you-look-like-a-tourist kind of stare that transcends the language barrier. I nod and point my camera elsewhere. If I had bought a kilogram of squid from the toothless lady I’m sure I’d be posting her photo here but I have no intention of lugging around a bag full of squid through the Maeklong Railway Market.
Maeklong Railway Market is a photographer’s delight and visiting the market is one of the more unusual things to do when visiting Bangkok.
- 1 Maeklong Railway Market
- 1.1 Video of The Train Passing Through Maeklong Market
- 1.2 What Do They Sell At Maeklong Railway Market
- 1.3 The Vibe at Maeklong Railway Market
- 1.4 Life at Maeklong train market
- 1.5 What to buy at Maeklong Market
- 1.6 The track at Maeklong Railway Market
- 1.7 The train at Maeklong
- 1.8 What Time Do The Trains Run At Maeklong Market?
- 1.9 How to get to Maeklong Railway Market
Maeklong Railway Market
Video of The Train Passing Through Maeklong Market
Watch this video to see why Maeklong Railway Market is one of the most unique landmarks in Thailand.
What Do They Sell At Maeklong Railway Market
It has an indoor section with plenty of stalls selling all kinds of interesting local food, from thousand-year eggs to live chickens and vegetables.
Stalls are packed with everything you can think of eating and a few other wriggly things you’d probably wouldn’t dream of putting in your mouth.
The most interesting part of the market is the outdoor section, which consists of one long narrow strip with stalls on either side.
Walk along the strip and you’ll see a smorgasbord of sights, from women in wide-brimmed hats selling herbs and spices to other local Thai delicacies like frog legs, quail, eel and stingray.
The Vibe at Maeklong Railway Market
I walk through the indoor section of the market listening to a babble of voices; the sound of the Thai language is a bubbly musical tune.
Although I have tried to learn a few Thai phrases each time I visit, I can never remember how to say anything in Thai except sà-wàd-dēe kà (how are you?) and sôm-dtām pèd mâag (som tam is very spicy).
Unlike the more touristy Chatuchak market and the various floating markets, the Maeklong Train Market is packed with locals.
Most vendors don’t even attempt to communicate in English.
Life at Maeklong train market
The women sit crossed-legged in their corners, chatting, chewing and chopping. Most of the time they work industriously preparing their food for sale.
Occasionally, I catch a woman in a pensive pose.
I wonder what she is thinking about. Is she thinking about the food she has to prepare for her stall tomorrow?
Does she have a sick child?
Or is she simply wondering if there’s more to life on this earth?
What to buy at Maeklong Market
The stalls are piled with vegetables and seafood.
There are stacks of brinjal, broccoli, beans, cucumbers, spring onions and plenty of other fresh greens.
Red and green chillies are enormously popular and available in abundance.
There are stalls selling curry paste, fresh fish, clams, crabs and other ocean creatures.
So far, you’re probably wondering why I’m going to the trouble of describing a typical Asian market.
If you’ve been to Thailand you have probably visited other similar markets.
The track at Maeklong Railway Market
Maeklong Railway Market isn’t just any ordinary market.
What makes Maeklong Railway Market most unusual is – although it doesn’t look like it – the path that you’re walking on is actually a train track.
It’s is a bustling hub of local commerce set up on either side of the Maeklong Railway in Maeklong.
The Maeklong railway is a 1,000mm gauge railway that runs about 67kms between Wongwian Yai in Bangkok and Samut Songkhram in central Thailand.
This section is a 300m market on the way to the well-known Damnoan Saduak Floating Market.
Although the floating market (and others like it, such as the Khlong Mayom Floating Market) is fun to visit but has much more of a touristy feel.
In contrast, the train market has a more local and authentic feel.
After all, what tourist would buy fresh uncooked frogs legs?
You squeeze past the vendors in single file, rubbing shoulders with shoppers walking in the opposite direction as you shuffle along the narrow path that is the actual railway track.
The stalls, buckets and tables with food are set up right against the railway track.
It’s a humid day and the smells of fresh fish, vegetables and spices float in the air.
It’s organic but not too exotic.
You peer into a bucket of baby crabs, mesmerised by the rhythm of their tiny claws moving to their own beat.
Feeling sorry for them, you might promise yourself not to eat crab again.
The train at Maeklong
Although the train passes through the market several times a day, you’ll probably have a little bit of a wait to see it.
Set aside the day and make sure you get there in time to watch the train roll through.
The wait is worth it, especially if you’re a fan of train travel.
Pull up a stool in a coffee shop and order a local coffee while waiting for the train.
The coffee is thick and bitter but it’s worth paying for the seat, which is in a great position to watch the train roll past.
Soon the stall holders start folding back their awnings and there’s a flurry of activity as they wheel their tables away from the track to make way for the train.
The horn sounds and the train crawls at a snail’s pace through the market.
Tourists whip out their cameras and jockey for the best position to take photos.
Some stand on the track right in front of the train with their cameras, leaping out of the way at the last minute.
I snap away, marvelling at the enterprising Thais who earn their livelihoods manning these pop-up stalls in the Maeklong Train Market.
Looking for more markets? The northern province of Isaan has plenty of markets with local food and colour.
What Time Do The Trains Run At Maeklong Market?
You’ll find the current Maeklong train schedule here and although the website claims to be up to date, I’d suggest enquiring with the concierge at your hotel.
Trains usually arrive at Maeklong Station at 8.30 am, 11.30 am, 2.30pm and 5.30 pm more or less.
How to get to Maeklong Railway Market
Maeklong Railway Market is in the Samut Songkhram region, 80 km from Bangkok.
Getting to Maeklong by Train
The train that passes through Maeklong travels between Phak Klong San in Bangkok and Maeklong Station.
Board the train at Wongwian Yai Railway Station, which is near the BTS station on the BTS Silom line), but you will need to disembark to cross the river by ferry at Mahachai Station and resume your train ride at Ban Laem Railway Station to Maeklong.
The train ride takes around 2.5 hours
Getting to Maeklong by Road
Hiring a car and driver, a taxi or Uber will get you there a lot quicker but make sure to negotiate the fare before you embark on the trip.
The journey by road from Bangkok to Maeklong takes about one hour.