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Mistakes at the Maeklong Train Market – Thailand


Last year in Thailand, we hired a taxi for the day to take us to a few classic touristy places. On the way, we ended up chatting and he told us that he really wanted to take us to the “Train market”. His English was a little limited, so that was basically all we understood. Rolling with it, we said sure. I had done some research on Bangkok but since we were primarily there for a wedding, we had roughly 2 days to fit in everything we wanted to do so the classic stuff came first – the Temples, an Elephant Park, a Floating Market, afternoon tea, and of course, a fancy spa. If I did come across the Market in my reading, I certainly didn’t remember it.

On the way to the market, I formed my own idea of the place – I assumed that vendors had their goods on a train and paused at the various stops to sell their goods (all the while remaining on the train). I also guessed that the train would move very slowly so that you could do your shopping while speed walking alongside the train. I mean, if you’ve ever stood behind someone in a grocery line who seemed to be trying to set the world record in slowness, wouldn’t you think that helping to speed the process along is a great idea? Shopping AND exercise!

So we got there a little early. I noticed vendors alongside the track under tarpaulin awnings. We wandered around, buying beer (which we had to keep hidden in a paper bag), took a step into a jewelry store where the mean old lady took one look at us and pointed for us to leave (that was before the beer, okay?) and managed to tick ‘eating Thai Street Food’ off of the list. We also wandering along the train tracks where there were vendors right at the edge of the track on either side with trays of fruits, vegetables, spices, and meats for sale. Although were extremely close to the track and for a notable section, tarpaulins provided a low roof , I didn’t give it much thought beyond the fact that the vendors coming on the train would give these ones some competition.

Can you see the Train track?

Our driver started pointing down the tracks in the distance saying “train market! train market!” a few minutes before we heard the bells start to ring and the barriers come down. The Market was coming! There was a flurry of activity as I saw vendors pull back their trays of goods and swing back the bamboo / stocks / strings that were attached to the tarps. It was like the whole market took a step back from both sides of the track. The train pulled through slowly as people jumped in front to take photos….and that was it.

Yeeeaaahhh. So turns out it’s a train. That just goes through a market. Very slowly.

Don’t get me wrong. The experience is clearly a fun, unique and popular one, and its surreal to see an entire market take a ‘step’ away so that the train can pass through, but still remain close enough to make you wonder if someone’s goods will get crushed. Apparently you can ride the train also which is also pretty cool. The train passes through the Market about three times a day, once in the morning, once around 1:45, and once in the evening. Check the current local Schedules to verify, especially if you want to ride the train itself.

When I realized what was going on, I turned to my sister and was like “I thought the vendors came on the train.” Both she and my husband looked at me scornfully. Guess I was the only one that got carried away by caffeine withdrawal and jet lag. Ah well. I had beer from a paper bag, judged by an old jewelry shop owner who strongly resembled my Grandma, laughed at by my family, and discovered a new and very unique place. Adventure achieved.

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