No joke, Google it. That’s where I went last week. It’s called the Maeklong Railway Market. It is literally a market on the rail road tracks, which would make sense, if the tracks were out of commission, but they’re not.
We met up at 8AM to head about 3 hours south of Bangkok via 2 trains. I’m not sure what kind of train we were on, but I’ve never heard anything like it. It sounded more like we were in the back of a really dilapidated dump truck than on a train. The train rides were pretty uneventful except for when we hit some kind of construction equipment that was parked right where it belonged…on the tracks… We were in the first car, so imagine the sound of a small train hitting a backhoe and that’s exactly what it sounded like. Eh, no big deal, that didn’t stop The Little Engine That Could.
We actually got to experience the market from two points of view: riding into the market on the train, and standing on the tracks. At about noon, we rolled into the train station, which also happened to be the market area. The stalls were literally less than a foot away from the side of the train so while I was sticking my head out the window, I had to take precautions not to get decapitated. Basically what happens is when the train is coming, the people retract everything into their stalls and pull their awnings in, and within 30 seconds after the train passes, their goods are back out on the tracks and the awnings are deployed.
The second point of view was when we were walking through the market and the train was coming back the other way. As the train was coming, we had to position ourselves in whatever small pocket of space we could fit into so as not to get run over by the train. You’ve gotta be fairly confident that you have measured your proportions correctly and fit all of your body into an appropriately sized space, because when a train is coming at you and passes within inches of your face, there isn’t much room for error.
Why is the market ON the train tracks? I have no idea, and neither does anyone else. It just is.
After making it out of the most dangerous market in the world intact, we got some noodles. In case you were curious, if you boil blood, it turns out kind of like Jello. I passed that along to my Thai friend as it is still one of the few foods that is just a little to strange for me to eat. We then got some street pancakes and boarded a Tuk Tuk to take us to Amphawa, the floating market.
Aaron “misplaced” his iPhone in the tuk tuk and with some creative teamwork, he and Bom were able to find it. While they were on the iPhone treasure hunt, the rest of us did some wandering around the market and bought grassheads. It’s a stocking filled with soil and grass seeds and then tied in specific places to look like a dog or a fat man or a turtle. It’s now sitting on my kitchen counter; no growth yet, but I am optimistic.
Next activity: riding a long tail boat on a tour of several temples along the river. At the second temple, there was a monk giving blessings so we sat with him and he sprinkled some kind of holy water on us (I’m “Catholic” so this is the closest analogy I can make). Then he gave us a necklace and a bracelet and sent us on our way. We also stopped at one with animals. I think they call it a zoo, but it was mostly just animals in poor condition chained up or caged in a way that would make a PETA advocate cry themselves to sleep for a thousand moons. But we got to feed them bananas and grasses so at least they seemed to be eating well. The coolest animal was a peacock in full bloom (?). He had all his feathers displayed, I thought it was pretty rad, but the lady bird was just not that into him. After our Tour de Temples, 5 to be exact, we motored back to the floating market.
En route to the van, we stopped to get some delicious juices served in bamboo mugs which we got to keep. I got real coconut water for like 10 cents. The exact same stuff I can get at Whole Foods for $5.99 a bottle. Our van obviously got stuck in the horrific Bangkok traffic on the way home, but it was a small price to pay for an otherwise really cool and unusually problem free trip.