There are very special markets in Thailand: a train rolls through some, others are floating on water. I made my way southeast of Bangkok to watch the rolling and swimming spectacles on my last day in Thailand.
February 2020 – It whistling sound: the train is on time. Then everything happens very quickly: Vendors fold in awnings, pull boxes full of lemons and Pak Choi to container walls and move shelves full of batik scarves out of the way. The moves are routine, the mood relaxed. Then the train comes around the curve like a red wall, puffs and rolls over the tracks that lead through the middle of the market. A warning whistle, a Thai woman plucks a tourist on her shirt, who is still standing on the rails with one leg and taking photos. The big vehicle jerks up at walking pace, cameras click. The train monster radiates an almost unbearable heat as it drives past the photographing tourists and waiting market people. The last wagon has just passed when the venors roll out shelves full of batik towels, pull the boxes of Pak Choi and lemons back into the display and open the awnings.
The Mae Klong train market is just under 100 kilometers south-west of Bangkok. I don’t know whether the market was there first or the rail tracks. The fact is: boxes full of vegetables stand right up to the tracks, which are also the walking path for visitors. And whenever the train arrives – eight times a day – vendors and visitors have to make room.
It’s on my bucket list
Many years ago, I saw a report on such a train market on TV. Fascinating, I thought at the time, and put it on the list of places I want to visit. The market itself is not more spectacular than any other market: vegetables, fruit, fish etc. – all fresh. But the relaxed hustle and bustle around the train passage is definitely worth seeing. As a visitor, you don’t have to be afraid of being surprised by the train. The vendors draw tourists’ attention to the start of the spectacle quite some time before it starts.
Because I only had one day in Bangkok, I joined another guided tour for this excursion. (Why I actually didn’t want to do this anymore can be found here.) The small van also took the group to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. And that was really cool. Of course, there was a large collection for tourists, and the stalls, which are built along canals and can only be reached by boat, are designed for tourists only. But the culinary offer here is outstanding. From the water, vendors sell fresh coconut ice cream (highly recommended). Whole kitchens including wok, gas bottle and bowls full of fresh ingredients are built in narrow but long wooden boats. They float through the canals or lie at anchor on the edge of the bank. The cooks exactly know their moves: they navigate their boats accident-free through the full channels, throw ingredients in soup pots and pass bowls of steaming dishes safely over the water onto neighboring boats. A great scenery.
I have eaten one of the tastiest noodle soups here during my entire four weeks in Thailand – and there were some. The prices are unfortunately slightly adapted to tourists. In contrast to the train market, you can hardly see locals shopping here. In this case, I concentrated on eating – it was worth it to come here just for the food –, taking photos, and enjoying the atmosphere. A good last day I spent in Thailand during my round-the-world trip.