Every day in the Thai province of Samut Songkhram, about 70 km southwest of Bangkok, a unique market is held whose vendors need feet as quick as their minds. Why? Because much of the market is located directly on a set of operational railway tracks. Eight times daily, a train runs through without care for stopping, sending vendors and visitors to action stations before business as usual resumes.
Image: Austin Bush Photography
Samut Songkhram’s morning market
Thailand has its fair share of interesting fresh markets offering a slice of day-to-day Thai life – be it night bazaars serving insect delicacies, or floating markets bobbing on canal boat platforms. Still, the market at Samut Songkhram, known locally as Mae Klong, has to bring home the bacon when it comes to unbridled excitement.
Train just visible through awnings
As the two-carriage train arrives, everybody acts quickly to let it to pass without somebody getting mowed down. The market traders move at the double, pulling their produce and awnings back from the tracks, while less practiced shoppers must also have their wits about them. Then, with the train gone, it’s straight back down to the business of buying and selling.
For visitors, there’s more to the experience than braving the railway tracks and dodging the occasional train. Another attraction is the sight of all the goods on display along the 100-metre length of track near Mae Klong Station. From fresh fruit and vegetables to newly caught seafood, it’s all shielded from the blazing sun by canopies of the stallholders’ own making.
Fresh fruit at Samut Songkhram market
There is a fascinating aesthetic to it all and a real ingenuity of design. When you consider the fact that Samut Sakhon is Thailand’s tiniest province – covering an area of just 416 sq km – it’s no surprise that it is also one of the country’s most densely populated areas. Given these circumstances, talk about a cleverly economical use of space – a commodity which must surely be at a premium.
Market on the railway tracks, train in view
And, while the market sellers may expend energy regularly packing up shop, and coping with an ever-present occupational hazard, it’s evidently worth it. Just think of the passing trade they get, as well as the ease of access for people expressly taking a trip there.
Tracks receding into the distance
Even if they don’t hit you like a freight train, the environmental messages of the railway track market of Samut Songkhram are certainly there to be chewed over.