Maeklong Railway Market
Located in the province of Samut Songkhram, 65 km west of Bangkok, the Maeklong Railway Market is possibly the second most famous market in Thailand — after the floating market. What makes it truly mind-blowing is that it has a train running right through it eight times a day, seven days a week, since 1905.
The goods sold here are what you may find in a typical wet market, which include fruits, vegetables, seafood, and meat. Most of them are displayed on the floor right up to the railway tracks. When the train announces its arrival, the vendors would casually retract their awnings and move some of their produce to make way for the train to pass through.
And just mere seconds after the train has gone past, everything is put back in its original position, and everybody resumes their activity as if nothing happened. It’s all done so methodically like a choreographed dance routine that has been perfected to a tee.
Maeklong Railway Market is also known as Talat Hoop Rom (Umbrella-Closing Market) and Talat Siang Tai (Life-Risking Market). Both are very apt name choices for this unique attraction.
How to Get There
By Private Tour
This is, of course, the most convenient option. The tour to Maeklong Railway Market is usually combined with a visit to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. What’s good about going on a tour is that you don’t have to worry about the train timings, traffic jams, and whatnot. In addition, you get someone knowledgeable to guide you through the experience.
To book a tour, you can go to any tour agency in Bangkok or at your hostel. Alternatively, you can book and pay online. I recommend Get Your Guide, where you can check the ratings and read customers’ reviews before choosing your tour provider.
To get to Maeklong from Bangkok, you need to go to the Southern (Sai Tai Mai) Bus Terminal. I went there directly from Don Mueang Airport using the airport shuttle service. There are two terminals on either side of the road, one for buses heading north, and the other for buses heading south. If you’re not sure, just go to any counter and ask.
In my case, a man at the counter was holding a sign with the word ‘Maeklong’ written on it, and for good measure, he was also shouting “Maeklong! Maeklong!”, so I went straight to him. The bus fare was 90 baht. Depending on Bangkok’s traffic, the journey usually takes about an hour and a half.
For a truly unique experience, you can even arrive on the train passing through the market. Talk about making a grand arrival. To do it is a bit complicated and time-consuming though.
First, you need to go to Wongwian Yai station in Bangkok, and take the Maeklong Line to Mahachai station. The journey will take about an hour. From Mahachai station, head to Mahachai Pier. Take a ferry to cross the river to Tha Chalom Pier. From there, walk to Ban Laem Station and take the train to Maeklong. After about an hour and 40 minutes, you will pass through the railway market.
Show your face at the window and put on your best smile because you will be in hundreds of people’s vacation photos and videos. Who knows, you might even end up in a social influencer’s Instagram feed. After that, get off the train, join the other tourists at the market, and watch from the sideline as the train leaves.
The Maeklong Market Train Schedule
The first train leaves Maeklong station at 6.30 am and the last one returns at 5.30 pm. The train will pass through the market 8 times per day — 4 times going in and 4 times going out. Below is the train schedule as of 2018. Try to time your visit accordingly because if you miss one, you’re going to have to wait for up to two hours for the next one.
Note: The schedule may have changed in 2019. But I can’t seem to find any information on this. If you happen to know the updated schedule, kindly update me in the comments below.
Don't Arrive Late!
My flight landed in Bangkok at around noon. After that, I had to go through immigration and customs, and wait for the airport shuttle. And then, there was the ride to the bus terminal. By the time I finally got on the minibus to Samut Songkhram, it was already past 2 pm.
I was really hoping to see the 3:30 pm train, so that I would have ample time to get back to Bangkok and find my accommodation before dark. However, at 3:40 pm, I was still stuck in traffic. My only hope then was for the train to be delayed, as trains in some parts of Asia are notorious to be.
Unfortunately, the train was on time. I had missed it. The next (and last) train of the day was in another 2 hours, so I spent my time exploring the area while sipping on the indisputably best iced tea in the world: the Thai iced tea.
Several street snacks later, I walked back to the railway track and waited. Some other tourists were also waiting restlessly with their cameras poised and ready.
Unfortunately, at 5:30 in the evening, most of the market vendors were already gone. There were only a few of them left at the stretch of rail track where we were at. I wonder if they deliberately stayed behind to give us latecomers a photo opportunity.
The Train Arrival
Due to there being not many vendors left, the spectacle wasn’t as remarkable as you might have seen in videos where the market is in full swing. But it was quite an experience nonetheless.
The only good thing about arriving late was that there was not much crowd left, so I didn’t have to fight for a good spot to take pictures. And the setting sun made a beautiful backdrop for the whole scene.
On top of that, I also got to have a picture taken with the stationary train as it stopped at its last station for the night.
Tips for Visiting the Maeklong Railway Market
- Please check the latest train schedule with the local vendors/restaurant owners at the market. They will know if there are any recent changes.
- Don’t arrive too late, as most of the sellers would have gone home by then and you won’t get to witness the umbrella-folding scene that the market is most famous for.
- As usual, no matter where you go in Thailand, always use sunscreen and stay hydrated. Bring a fan if you have one, as inside the market can get hot and stuffy with all the crowd.
- Be safe! Do not stand too close to the approaching train. People have died there. If you really need to take a picture of yourself on the railway track with the train in the background, wait till the train has passed, and take a picture from behind it.
- Be polite and respectful to the local vendors. Ask for permission before you take their photos. To you, it’s a vacation. But to them, it’s their means of subsistence. I assume their lives are hard enough without having to deal with the throngs of tourists trampling over their goods just to take photos without buying anything.
- Get that iced tea.