The Maeklong Market vs. the Maeklong Railway

Posted in Food by AlvinAllistar on 15 april 2011

Bangkok’s Maeklong Market has been in existence for decades. It remained relatively undisturbed until the later creation of the Maeklong Railway and, contrary to what you might see in the United States and in other parts of the world, there was no eminent domain law forcing market vendors to move.

Maeklong Market Railway

Image credit: Chrissy Olson

Making Way for the Train in Maeklong

The result? Every single day the Maeklong Railway line passes through Maeklong – 8 times a day, 7 days per week. The train literally runs directly through the middle of the market, forcing vendors to pull back their awnings and wares while shoppers find a place to step off of the track that serves as their only walkway.

The second the train passes through, the awnings are lowered to their original positions, protecting the people and food from the heat of the mid-day sun. Rolling containers of fish, fruits, and vegetables are pushed back into position and business resumes as if nothing had happened.

Traveling the Maeklong Railway

The Maeklong Railway from Bangkok opened in 1905 and has a total of 18 stations in small villages and towns from beginning to end. The railway, which receives relatively little use compared to those in major cities, is regularly threatened with closure – though it seems that may never really happen.

Maeklong Market

Chrissy Olson

The Maeklong Railway has two sections. The first goes as far as Samut Sakhon, sometimes referred to as Mahachai, where the railway suddenly ends when it reaches the river. After taking a ferry to the other side you can purchase a second ticket which will take you to Samut Songkhram, also referred to as Maeklong. Once you pass through the market at Maeklong you will reach the end of the railway line at yet another river.

Maeklong Railway Ending


The Maeklong Railway has only one track, making it difficult to operate more than two or three trains at a time. The only time two trains can pass each other is if they are resting in one of the terminals.

Tourists on the Maeklong Railway should carefully plan their trips. The timing of the trains on each side of the river do not match up – as if they don’t really expect anyone who is merely visiting as a tourist to want to cross the river to begin with, let alone catch the next train. In some instances you may arrive as the train is pulling out of the station, while in others you may have to wait as long as two hours for the next train to arrive.

Exploring the Maeklong Market

When the train reaches the end of the railway line in Maeklong tourists will have plenty of time (about an hour) to get off the train and explore the market before the train turns around again. As soon as you reach the market you’ll be astounded at how well run it is, especially considering the most recent interruptions caused by your train as it rumbled through.

Introduce yourself to the locals and you’re bound to be greeted with welcoming smiles and handshakes. The locals in Maeklong rarely expect tourists to visit just to see their market and you will be as interesting to them as they and their businesses are to you.

Maeklong Market

When you get up close, be sure to explore the trays of vegetables and fish along the rails. You’ll notice that many are on wheels so that they can easily be slid out of the way when the train comes through. Other vendors have to physically lift their goods out of the way but there is always enough warning so that no one’s goods (or physical self) are harmed.

Debate Regarding the Maeklong Market

When pictures of the Maeklong Market first appeared on the internet there was quite a bit of debate about whether or not the market was real or was the creation of a creative individual well-versed in Photoshop. It seems unreal that a market would operate so close to a railway that containers of fruits and vegetables would actually be passed over by the train as it passes.

Fortunately, there are now several documents by both amateur and professional travelers – each attesting to the reality of the situation in Maeklong. The market is real, the train is real, and the people are real.

Maeklong is their home and they were there first – the train came along later on. The locals here are merely attempting to survive.


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