Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Back On Track

Shoppers walk on the track bed in the Samut Songkhram (Maeklong) train station. The train is running again after the State Railway of Thailand spent nearly a year upgrading the tracks. 

I took a much delayed road trip today to do some purely touristy things. The day started at the floating market in Damnoen Saduak and then went to Samut Songkhram to see the market on the train tracks
A vendor in the Samut Songkhram market. The yellow and red banner is a tip-off that she's selling vegetarian foods for the Vegetarian Festival. 

The local market is built on the train tracks in Samut Songkhram (also called Maeklong because the Maeklong River empties into the Gulf of Siam here). The station is the terminus of the Baen Laem-Samut Songkhram line, a short (less than 20 kilometer) train line that mostly hauls local people. 

The trains come into town three times a day. Each time the train comes into town, the vendors move their goods and stalls out of the way, wait for the train to pass and then put it all back together. The market, and its railroad ballet, has become a big tourist draw. 
A vendor bags limes on the tracks while a local resident walks past.

The tourists, most of whom are on package tours to the floating market, come into town on huge buses, line up in the market, watch the train come through and get back on the buses and leave town. They're in town about 20 minutes. 
A grilled shrimp vendor on the tracks.

The vendors take this all in stride. On one hand, the tourists get in the way of doing business. On the other hand, the tourists are the business. They contribute a lot of money to the local economy, although most of the money goes to the established business interests in town and the vendors don't see much of it. 

But this is a real working market. Local people come down to the market to shop. Most of the vendors sell produce, sea food and meats. A few sell tourist knick knacks like tee shirts and key chains. It gets extremely crowded. Sometimes so crowded you can hardly move through the throng. 
Local people walk down the tracks
Tourists and locals line the tracks as the train comes into town. 

I like visiting the market on the train tracks in Samut Songkhram. I first visited in 2009 and, while there are a lot more tourists in it now, it's still one of the most unique sites in Thailand. The truth is there are a lot of tourists almost everywhere in Thailand and coping with the tourist invasion is a necessary task when you visit or live in the Land of Smiles
A Thai shopper waits for the train to pass. I made this photo with a fisheye lens - I was just inches from both the woman and the train. Note the limes on the ground under the train. 
A vendor holds the awning for her stall as the train passes. 

The market is a fun place to visit. I think the best way to get down there is take a taxi and combine it with a trip to the floating markets that are common in this part of Thailand. You can take a train from Bangkok, but it's a long, tiring trip that requires a change of trains and a long walk in Samut Sakhon (also called Mahachai). 
Another fisheye photo of a train leaving Samut Songkhram.


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