One of the more interesting train journeys I’ve had is riding through the Maeklong market railway in Thailand.
Even if you’ve never heard of the town, you’ve probably seen a youtube video of a train going through a tightly packed market, where market stalls are set up on the rails. The train barely fits through the market, and once the train passes through the market stalls occupy the railway line almost immediately.
I took a day trip from Bangkok out to Maeklong, and sure enough this crazy market wasn’t just a figment of my youtube imagination, it really exists.
I always like walking around markets in Thailand, so to have one with its own railway was an added bonus.
Thai markets are like English TV cooking shows. I never cook, but I love watching those shows. It’s the same with the markets. I’m never going to buy and cook any of this stuff, but I love looking at the piles of sea creatures I hitherto didn’t know exist, and piles of neatly stacked vegetables that I rarely eat.
This train has become famous around the world so there were many people in the market taking photos. The market operators seemed to be used to visitors and pointed out a few spots that were best for taking pictures.
More videos at youtube.com/nomadicnotestv
How To Get To Maeklong
Maeklong is under 70km from Bangkok, but getting the train there will make it feel longer. The journey involves two train trips, punctuated by a ferry ride.
From Bangkok the train departs from Wong Wian Yai. This station is near the King Taksin Statue on the non-touristic side of the river in Thonburi. The nearest BTS Station is Wangwan Yai, which is about 20 minutes walk.
The station itself only has one track that runs along the side of a small street, so it is not an obvious station to find. From here you get the train to the end of the line at Mahachai.
This train takes about an hour. At Mahachai, exit left of the train, then turn right into the market street. It’s a fishing port so you will see seafood everywhere. Walk to the end of the street and on your left you will see the river and the ferry terminal.
You now catch the ferry across the river to Ban Laem. At Ban Laem walk through the market and at the street entrance, turn right. Keeping walking down this street for about 10 minutes and you will get to the station. Once again it is a one track station, so the station is not that obvious. This is the train that will take you to Maeklong.
This train also takes 1 hour, and the trip through the market is right at the end, just before the station. It takes about 2 minutes to get through the market. You should start seeing the outer urban area of Maeklong at about 55 minutes, so that would be the time to get ready if you are going to take photos.
I also noticed that a tour group got on the train at the station before Maeklong. They would have been part of a bus tour going somewhere else, and it would certainly be a less time consuming way to do the trip. I haven’t seen this advertised anywhere though.
Planning Your Trip
There are only 4 trains a day to Maeklong, so you really need to plan your day here. This is the timetable from Ban Laem to Maeklong.
From Ban Laem and from Maeklong
If you get the 13.30 train to Maeklong, then you won’t see the train going through the market as you will be back on it as the last train to Bangkok.
The best timing is the following schedule:
8.40 Dep Bangkok Wong Wian Yai
9.30 Arr Mahachai
—Ferry River Crossing—-
10.10 Dep Ban Laem
11.10 Arr Maeklong
At Maeklong the station is at the end of the market. You now have 20 minutes to walk through the market and find a good spot to watch the train come through.
11.30 Train departs Maeklong and goes through the market.
You now have 3 hours in Maeklong until the next train arrives. Seafood is a specialty here, so you could look for a nice seafood lunch. That will take up about 41 minutes. After that there’s not alot else to do in Maeklong, but hey, you are an intrepid traveller, I’m sure you will make your own adventures.
2.30 Train goes through market again, arrives at Maeklong Station.
3.30 Train leaves Maeklong. Last train to Bangkok. Make sure you’re on it.
This schedule will allow you to see the train going in and out of the station, while you are in the market. If you are a professional photographer – or a train spotter – you could get the 7.30 train from Ban Laem, which would give you another two times to see the market run. That would mean a really early start from Bangkok, which is above and beyond the call of duty really.
As you will see from the videos, I was able to film from beside the drivers window when going through the market. The driver and conductor were quite accommodating to passengers who were riding just to see the market. By the way, there were just as many Thai tourists taking photos on the train as there were western tourists, so you wont feel like a total dork.
The train back will get you back to bangkok at around 6pm, making it a full day out day trip.