After I saw this startling video of a Thai market ebbing and flowing over the tracks of a train, I had many questions. Where was the market? Could I visit it? What is the history of this line? I’ve found a few answers but I’d love to know more about the line’s history.
The train line began running some time before World War II as a freight line, hauling coal from the coast to Bangkok. As for the rest of the answer: You can’t reach it from Hualampong, Bangkok’s central train station. Nor from Bangkok Noi, the small station on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, where the train to Kanchanaburi and the River Kwai departs.
The market on the railway track is in a small town a few hours south of Bangkok. The town’s official name is Samut Songkhram, but it’s better known to Thais by its old name, Maeklong. Although it takes two trains on different lines to reach it, the journey makes for a pleasant day trip. Best of all, with little stress, you can escape the big smoke and soon be gliding through clean air, countryside and salt farms.
Train from Bangkok to Samut Sakhon (Mahachai)
The day trip begins at Bangkok’s Wong Wian Wai station. Although this terminal is obscure, Wong Wian Wai itself isn’t. It’s a large roundabout on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River. Like Bangkok Noi, that’s across from greater Bangkok. With moderate traffic, it’s less than 15 minutes from the Oriental Hotel, Royal Orchid Sheraton and other big riverside hotels. Best of all, the terminal is walking distance from the Skytrain’s newest station, also called Wong Wian Wai or Wongwianwai.
From the southern edge of the traffic circle, a small commuter train leaves about every hour for the one-hour 31-kilometer trip to the fishing port of Samut Sakhon. Better known to local people as Mahachai, this is major fishing port and processing area for the many (environmentally destructive) shrimp farms in the area.
Richard Barrow describes his own day trip to Maeklong step by step. Richard runs the Paknam websites, probably the largest and best network of English-language sites and blogs in Thailand. It’s certainly the most family- and female- friendly. Unfortunately, it’s hard to figure out how all the pages and websites link together. Elsewhere, Richard describes homestays near Mahachai/Samut Sakhon and its attractions. The most interesting are probably the ocean-swimming monkeys..
Train from Samut Sakhon (Mahachai) to Maeklong
You must take a 5-minute ferry trip across the Tha Chin River to catch one of the infrequent trains that travel the one hour to Maeklong (also sometimes spelled “Mae Klong”). To return to Samut Sakhon on the same day, the last train you can take to Maeklong departs at 1.30 pm. As always in Thailand, it’s wise to check on the schedule upon arrival in a new station because schedules often change with little in the way of public notice. Scroll down here to see a map of Maeklong town, complete with Kuan Yin shrine and Ayutthaya-era temple.
If you want to return to Bangkok in one day …