Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Moveable Market

A train comes rolling into the market in Samut Songkhram

Thailand is famous for its markets. There are wet markets (meat and fresh produce), dry markets (clothes and non perishables), livestock markets (water buffalo and cattle), floating markets (markets on canals) and then there's the market in Samut Songkhram. Where the train drives through and over the market every time it leaves or comes into town. Eight times a day the train leaves or comes into town, rolling through and over the market. 

Samut Songkhram is a nice little town on the Gulf of Siam about 90 minutes from Bangkok. There's a fishing port in town and farms of all sorts dot the landscape around the town. A lot of tourists come into town for day trips to see the canals and floating markets in the area. But the town is most famous for two things: the salt fields north of town and the crazy market in town. 

Samut Songkhram is on the way to the famous floating market in Damnoen Saduak and the trains run on a sort of schedule. Tour buses stop on their way to the floating market, the tourists tromp up and down the tracks and, if they're lucky, jump out of the way as the train chugs through, then get back on their buses and go to the crowded floating market. The problem is the trains don't always, make that seldom, run on time and tour buses have a schedule to keep so they don't always get to enjoy the spectacle of the train in the market. 

That's too bad because it is a lot of fun. The vendors sit on the edge of the tracks with their goods spread out around them. A train whistle blares in the distance and in what can only be described as a well rehearsed ballet, they stand en masse. First they move their merchandise off the tracks and out of the way (as you can see in the photo, some things are left on the ground next to the rails, the train rolls over this stuff). Then they help each other move the awnings that cover their stands and the tracks out of the way. Then they wait a couple of minutes until the train passes and put everything back together again.  

Since the train makes four round trips daily, it leaves and comes into the Samut Songkhram station eight times a day. So eight times a day the market vendors go through this routine. 

I think the best way to see the market is to have your own transportation or travel independently. Tour groups are committed to a schedule individual travelers have no control over the train is committed to a schedule it seldom keeps so the chances of a tour group being in the market when the trains comes is not very good. The market is more crowded in the morning that it is in the afternoons, so mornings are best. 

There are more photos of the Samut Songkhram train in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.