The Maeklong railway is basically two separate railway systems, divided by Tha Chin River at Samut Sakhon. The first section originates from Bangkok’s Wongwian Yai station and terminates at Maha Chai station in Samut Sakhon. The second section continues from Ban Laem station in Tha Chalom, on the opposite side of the river to Samut Sakhon and terminates at Mae Klong next to the Mae Klong River.
Mae Klong Market with a Ban Laem to Mae Klong train passing through
The total route length of both sections together is 67 kilometres and it is possibly the slowest train in Thailand, travelling at an average speed of about 30 kph. At the end of the line, the Mae Klong market is one of the largest fresh sea food markets in Thailand and at first sight it looks the same as all the other Thai markets. But on closer inspection (or if you happen to just accidently time it just right) you will notice that a 1,000 mm railway traverses right through the middle of the main market.
The market has everything you would expect a Thai market to sell – fruits, veggies, meat, sea food, snacks, clothing and flowers – it is just a normal everyday local Thai market although, thanks to the train, it attracts a very high number of tourists. If you didn’t know about the special feature (a.k.a. the train) before arriving, you probably wouldn’t believe that the train tracks hidden beneath all the fruits and vegetables were actually part of an active railway.
The market stalls are spread across the tracks, built onto specially designed rails to allow them to be easily pushed back. Once the train does arrive, baskets of fruit and market stalls covered in produce are only pushed back far enough to allow about 30 cm clearance with the train body. It’s probably worth mentioning that people get about the same amount of clearance if they’re lucky.
The only thing that ruins the atmosphere is the incredibly large crowds of tourists (directly off tour buses) that invade the market about 30 minutes before a train is due arrive. Outside of these times the market is predominantly full of Thais.
Mae Klong Market fruit and vegetable stalls along the railway tracks
I started the day off by catching an Uber to Wongwian Yai station, from where I boarded the 05:30 train to Maha Chai. Once at Maha Chai station, I walked a few hundred meters to the Maha Chai ferry pier for a quick boat trip across the Tha Chin River. From here it was a few more hundred meters to Ban Laem station (see notes below for more detail).
From Ban Laem station I continued on the 07:30 train to Mae Klong and up until about half way to Mae Klong, I was the only foreigner on the train. However, I was then joined by several large tour groups much to my annoyance.
Thankfully the Guard had taken a liking to me – probably because I was alone and had travelled all the way from Ban Laem – and he offered me a seat in the rear driving cab. He clearly didn’t like large tour groups as none of them were invited into the driving cab but a few other two-person groups were also invited in (but my seat was the best by far).
Mae Klong Market with fresh and packaged produced lining the sides of the railway tracks
A few minutes later the train started to very slowly pass through the market. I was hoping to see the canopies of market stalls being dropped back across the tracks but instead the main view looking backwards was a lot of tourists all taking selfies of themselves with the train behind them. Without them the view would’ve been a million times better!
At Mae Klong station, the train was invaded by tourists, and the market itself was completely overcrowded by them. The most annoying ones were the people in big tour groups along with their rude and inconsiderate guides. Pfff! I spent several hours here, and the thing I learnt was that tour groups would appear about 30 minutes before a train’s arrival and had then all left within 15 minutes of the train’s passing.
I didn’t do much else on this day and I quite enjoyed just relaxing in the café by the tracks with an iced cappuccino.
Ice cold fresh coconuts
How to get to Mae Klong market?
This website is all about train travel, and where there is a train option I will rarely give alternative ‘road’ options. This trip is no exception but by all means, if you really must you can obviously drive there or join a tour group. I recommend you don’t!
Read on for my step by step guide on how to visit the Mae Klong market by train from Bangkok on a day trip…
Step 1: Getting to Bangkok Wongwian Yai railway station
Bangkok Wongwian Yai railway station is south west of Bangkok’s city centre. The closest Bangkok BTS Sky Train station is also, rather confusingly called “Wongwian Yai” however; this is 850 meters away from Wongwian Yai railway station.
It is easy to walk between the two stations and this route on Google Maps is perhaps the simplest to follow. The Bangkok BTS Sky Train starts running at around 06:00 so I would suggest this option if you’re planning on catching either the 07:40 or 10:40 train. For the 05:30 departure, I would say an Uber (or any other taxi) is your best choice.
Bangkok Wongwian Yai station at sunset
Step 2: Understanding the timetable
In each direction there are 17 trains a day between Bangkok Wongwian Yai and Maha Chai whereas the section between Ban Laem and Mae Klong only has 4 trains per day. For the full timetable, please look at the photographs below which were taken in March 2018.
To make a day trip from Bangkok the following outbound options are available (I would personally recommend the ‘very early morning departure’).
Left: Maha Chai to Bangkok Wongwian Yai
Middle: Bangkok Wongwian Yai to Maha Chai
Right: Ban Laem to Mae Klong (and return)
Very early morning departure
Depart Bangkok Wongwian Yai at 05:30 and arrive Maha Chai at 06:23.
Depart Ban Laem at 07:30 and arrive Mae Klong at 08:30.
Early morning departure
Depart Bangkok Wongwian Yai at 07:40 and arrive Maha Chai at 08:39 (or it may just about do-able departing Bangkok Wongwian Yai at 08:35, arriving Maha Chai at 09:28)
Depart Ban Laem at 07:30 and arrive Mae Klong at 08:30.
Mid morning departure
Depart Bangkok Wongwian Yai at 10:40 and arrive Maha Chai at 11:39.
Depart Ban Laem at 13:30 and arrive Mae Klong at 14:30.
To return to Bangkok on the same day the following options are available:
Depart Mae Klong at 09:00 and arrive Ban Laem at 10:00.
Depart Maha Chai at 10:40 and arrive Bangkok Wongwian Yai at 11:38 (or if you miss this train, the next departure from Maha Chai is at 11:45).
Late morning departure
Depart Mae Klong at 11:30 and arrive Ban Laem at 12:30.
Depart Maha Chai at 13:15 and arrive Bangkok Wongwian Yai at 14:13.
Depart Mae Klong at 15:30 and arrive Ban Laem at 16:30.
Depart Maha Chai at 17:35 and arrive Bangkok Wongwian Yai at 18:25.
* Timetable / schedule correct as of Friday 2nd March 2018
Ban Laem to Mae Klong ticket – 10 THB (US$0.30) one-way
Step 3: How much will it cost me?
So a tour to Mae Klong market might cost you perhaps around US$30, but this extremely low budget train journey adds up to less than US$2 return. Ok, admittedly you need to get to Bangkok Wongwian Yai station (about US$1 one-way on the Sky Train depending on distance travelled) and then you will have to fork out a few extra cents to cross the Tha Chin River between Maha Chai and Ban Laem stations by boat.
Bangkok Wongwian Yai to Maha Chai – 10 THB (US$0.30) one-way
Ban Laem to Mae Klong – 10 THB (US$0.30) one-way
Step 4: Getting from Maha Chai to Ban Laem
A quick summary:
1. Arrive Maha Chai railway station
2. Walk 300 meters to Maha Chai ferry pier
3. Disembark at Chalom ferry pier
4. Walk 500 meters to Ban Laem railway station
Walking route map from Maha Chai station to Ban Laem station
A bit more detail:
The walk from Maha Chai railway station (Google Maps) to Maha Chai ferry pier is about 300 meters. If disembarking the train on the left hand side of the train in the direction of travel, turn right along the platform until you find the railway station ticket hall on your left. Turn left into the ticket hall, and exit on the other side of the building, continuing through the ‘scooter’ car park until reaching a road, 20 meters or so away. Turn right here and follow it to the end (190 meters) where you need to turn left. The Maha Chai ferry pier (Google Maps) is straight ahead of you.
On entry to the ferry pier you will need to pay a few baht for a ticket.
When disembarking at the ferry at Chalom pier (Google Maps), the first 50 meters of the walk is through a narrow enclosed alleyway with plenty of scooter traffic. Once you have reached the road at the end of the alleyway, turn right and follow this road to the end (450 meters). When you reach the part of the road with temples on it, you are getting close and you will soon see the railway tracks ahead of you. Ban Laem railway station (Google Maps) is just to the right.
The railway entrance to Maha Chai station... (the triangular canopy down the tracks is the station)
Step 5: Finding Mae Klong Market
If arriving by train from Ban Laem, the train will actually travel through Mae Klong market before reaching Mae Klong railway station. To get back to the market, just follow the railway tracks in the direction you just came from.
Step 6: Knowing when the train is due to pass through Mae Klong market?
This is the really important part if you want to see the Mae Klong market train in action!
Before the train’s arrival, which could be few minutes either side of the times shown below, the market stalls / tables are pushed back into the huts (the stalls / tables are on rails) and the canopies are lifted. This operation is repeated eight times a day and happens about 5-10 minutes before the train’s arrival.
The train then passes through the market at a very low speed, and literally within seconds of the rear of the train passing a market stall, the owner drops the canopy and pushes the stall / table back into position over the tracks. If you appeared a minute after the train had passed, you wouldn’t have a clue that there had just been a train. It really is business as usual.
A small cafe at the far end of the market, at the furthest away point from Mae Klong station - a perfect spot to relax between passing trains
06:20 towards Ban Laem
08:30 towards Mae Klong
09:00 towards Ban Laem
11:10 towards Mae Klong
11:30 towards Ban Laem
14:30 towards Ban Laem
15:30 towards Mae Klong
17:40 towards Ban Laem
What is the train like?
Put simply, the train is very simple. Both the Bangkok Wongwian Yai to Maha Chai, and Ban Laem to Mae Klong trains are non air conditioned with hard (third class only) seats and open windows. The timetable shows a few air conditioned trains on the first section of the journey, however, these were no where to be seen when I visited in March 2018. I
There are always more photos to be shared, but sharing them all on this journal page will just make it look cluttered – so if you want to see more photos for inspiration, check out my Flickr “2018 – Thailand” album.
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