Six times a day, a train rolls right through the centre of the Maeklong Railway Market. Six times a day, vendors and buyers have three minutes to get out of the way. A very loud whistle gives the warning call, and everyone scrambles to move produce off the tracks, roll back awnings, and take down umbrellas before the train arrives.
In fact, the market is sometimes called the “umbrella pull down market” for this very reason. But vendors have to do a lot more than that. They have to pick up baskets of fish, beans, and bananas and move them off the tracks. In some cases, they just leave them as they know the train will clear them. As the train comes through the very narrow market lane, there is only inches to spare on each side.
Maeklong Railway Market is also called the world’s most dangerous market. Unfortunately, people have occasionally lost their lives, though the train moves very slowly through the market.
The bizarre phenomenon leads many people to visit the market for the novelty of seeing the train run right through it, rather than for the goods sold. The market sells mostly fresh foods, Thai sweets, flowers, herbs, spices, drinks, fish, and seafood. In fact, it’s one of the biggest seafood markets in Thailand. But the food aside, seeing the sprawling market spring to life when the train rolls through makes for a worthwhile stop when you’re in the area. Just remember: when you hear the whistle, step back, and maybe get your camera ready.
Know Before You Go
The market is located in Samut Songkhram city, Muang Samut Songkhram District, which runs along the Gulf of Thailand’s coastline southwest of Bangkok. It’s only about 60km from Bangkok. You can get there by train, public van (minibus), or car. A fun thing to do is ride the Maeklong Railway through the market, and then get off and explore.