Bangkok may boast a selection of famously floating markets, but 42 miles to the southwest at Samut Songkhram, at the opposite end of the Maeklong Railway, is one of the largest fresh seafood markets in Thailand – where vendors must be quick-witted and quicker-heeled.
Famously – or perhaps infamously – built around the narrow gauge track, the Maeklong Railway Market is a hive of activity when, several times each day, a locomotive cuts straight through the stalls sending vendors and visitors running.
As Karl at Environmental Graffiti writes: “Eight times daily, a train runs through without care for stopping, sending vendors and visitors to action stations before business as usual resumes.”
To the locals, the Maeklong Railway Market is known as Talad Rom Hoop, which translates as ‘Market Umbrella Pull-down’. When a train approaches, awnings and shopfronts are hastily rolled back and then replaced as soon as it passes. It’s a well-rehearsed routine that brings an extra flavour – and danger – to market life.
Fortunately the line, which has no signals whatsoever, is one of the slowest in Thailand. The maximum speed on the route, which was completed in 1907, is just 18.6 mph. But that’s surely little comfort as traders scurry to safeguard their lives and livelihood with hundreds of tons of uncompromising machine bearing down on them.
That said, the Maeklong Railway Market has become a way of life and most simply don’t notice the trains. If anything, they have helped put the market on the map, ensuring plenty of tourists and a lucrative trade for locals.
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