Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Train's Coming! Thailand's Market on the Railway Tracks

The 9.30am train is running late, which, for the vendors at the Mae Klong markets, means another 10 minutes or so of trading. They show no sign of preparation, or of making good use of the extra time - for them, it's business as usual.

Shopping for fresh vegies at the Mae Klong Market
Stalls are located right on the tracks

Suddenly, however, there's a warning cry - the train is coming! Hurry!!!

There's a brief moment of panic - what the??? NOW? ... but soon the well-oiled machine swings into action as boxes of seafood, fruit, kitchen utensils and plastic raincoats are pushed in, awnings are folded and goods moved back just a metre or so.

It's coming - no time to waste!

It's all perfect timing, of course. The two-car train, en route to the nearby station, chuffs past to the cheer of the crowd, passing within a whisker of the market stalls. Then, the second it passes, the action starts again as vendors re-set their stalls in the original position - right on top of the railway tracks.

Here it is!

Now that's a close shave!

It's all a carefully choreographed drama - and entertainment of the simplest kind. But this four-times daily ritual - removing market stalls off the tracks as the train approaches, re-setting up business, then removing everything again as the train returns - is what makes this market both unique, and incredibly popular with tourists. What should be just another dull produce market has instead become an attraction in its own right, and brought much needed business to this area 80 kilometres southwest of Bangkok.

The climax of the show
Replacing the awnings after the train has passed

And as with any show, the more drama the better. The last minute chaos is good for business in every aspect, giving visitors a real show and allowing trading to continue until the very last second.

Mae Klong's railway market was born of necessity, to make the most of limited space. Stalls located right on the tracks pay the least rent to market administrators - and despite the inconvenience of having to move as the train approaches, it's these stalls that make the market unique.

The Mae Klong Railway is the shortest line in Thailand, split into two sections - a 33km line from Bangkok to Samut Sakhon, then a further 31 kilometres to Mae Klong, with the two sections separated by the Tha Chin River. Passengers are ferried across the river by boat before joining the second train.

In Thai, the now famous Railway Market is called Talad Rom Hoop, meaning the 'Umbrella Pulldown Market'. In a country where produce markets are a dime a dozen, this is one of a kind, and a fun, very Thai spectacle.

Intrepid Travel visit Mae Klong market as part of their Real Food Adventure tours (


  1. There is a typo error. Market in Thai is Talad. So It'ss called "Talad" Rom Hoop instead of "Salad" :)

    Nice blog!

  2. LOL - I blame autocorrect! Thanks for picking that up, I've corrected the copy. Mind you, with all those fresh veggies, it's quite the 'salad' as well!

  3. Oh yeah, those "salad" huh, hahaha... and you're welcome, Julie ;)