A TRAIN RUNS THROUGH IT

#85 Going to Market

The Maeklong Railway Market is roughly 70km from Bangkok. And on the usual time-and-distance scale used by crows and other straight-line navigators, this has to seem reasonably short. However, when you drop in factors such as bends in the river, the numerous stops on the village line, the breaks in the track and the various modes of transport, then the journey becomes excitingly longer as you move from the smooth sophistication of skytrains down to the leisurely pace of rural coaches and slow boats on lazy rivers. The Maeklong market had been in existence long before the construction of the Maeklong railway line began in 1905, and when the line was fully operational, the vendors worked around the inbound and outbound train times instead of relocating to other spaces. In any event, there were no Domain laws to enforce legal eviction or relocation, so the line remained and so did the market. What this meant and still means is that Maeklong has a unique market where a train passes right through the centre of it – a short interruption to regular market movements (pun not intended) taking about two minutes from the entrance of the market to the terminal station. The drill is simple: the train’s horn is sounded as it approaches the market and within seconds the awnings and canopies are pulled back to clear the track which also doubles as the only walkway between the stalls when the train isn’t running. And there's no place like this market anywhere else on earth.