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A Train Runs Through It: Thailand’s Railway Market

Maeklong Railway Market is not your normal market. Sure, you can find the usual fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, even ice cream there. But its location is a little out of the ordinary — directly on top of a busy commuter train line. If you’re asking yourself, “Why set up a market on an active train track?” the real question you should be asking is “Why build a train track over a market?”

In 1905, the Maeklong Railway began building a commuter train line from Bangkok to a town about an hour away called Samut Songkhram. The plans called for railroad tracks to cross a well-known and established vendor bazaar that is [now] one of the biggest seafood markets in Thailand. Instead of moving the location of the market when the railroad was constructed, the vendors adapted.

Three minutes before the train approaches, a bell rings. That’s how vendors know to begin moving their items behind the tracks, pulling up their awnings, and getting out of the way of the oncoming train. After the train passes, they put everything back again, as if nothing happened. These vendors have become accustomed to this schedule eight times a day, every day.

The market earned the nickname “umbrella pulldown market” for the awnings and umbrellas that vendors put up and down with the train’s passing. Maeklong Railway Market has become a hot tourist destination because of its odd location and the fact that it has persisted despite existing directly on an active train line.

Just 20 minutes away from the Maeklong Railway Market is another interesting stop: the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. At Thailand’s most popular floating market, vendors sell goods on stalls in boats and other floating vessels while shoppers can float by on small boats and kayaks. If you’re in the mood for visiting markets in unlikely locations, Samut Songkhram may be your go-to spot. Don’t forget to get your camera ready!

Location

Samut Songkhram, Thailand

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