May 30 2011
Sometimes you need to get out of Bangkok for a minute, to some place that is a bit quieter, and preferably cooler. Mahachai is a port town about 45 kilometres southwest of Bangkok. It squats on a bend of the Chao Phraya river as it heads out into the Gulf of Thailand, divided up into three parts by the water. Mahachai is not a town to which one goes for gambling or flashing lights — it’s where you go to do nothing, for no particular period of time, in the cool ocean breeze. Or that’s what I did, and it was fantastic. Take take a ferry across the river, look at wats, and smell fish. There’s a lot of fish to smell in the market.
The market, speaking from the point of view of someone who has a serious need to see every market — ever — is great. Lots of fish, crab, and wriggling sea life, as well as great produce. The market and the railway sort of grew up around each other, so when the first train arrives from Bangkok, vendors have to move their wares off the tracks for the train to pull into the station.
The train ride from Bangkok is open air, passing through green rice paddies and so close alongside people’s homes that you can sometimes watch TV with them or smell what they are cooking for lunch when the train pauses. Once you alight in Mahachai and explore the market, head down to the pier to cross the river. You can continue on another train from here to Mae Khlong, another little spot of nothing near the Gulf, if you haven’t had enough train yet.
The train to Mahachai leaves from Wongwianyai station in Thonburi (the side of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area that’s west and south of the Chao Praya — it’s a good spot for vintage clothes shopping). Take the BTS to Wongwianyai, and exit on the north side of the station. Walk away from the station (in the direction the train was travelling from Bangkok) and cross the big intersection. Turn right and continue for about ten minutes — you’ll cross a tiny canal and then the station will be in front of you on your right. Tickets cost 10 baht for non-Thais; make sure you get one before you get on the train from the ticket office about one-third of the way down the platform. Trains leave at 06:25, 07:00, 07:40, 08:35, 09:40, 10:40, 12:15 13:20, 14:25, 15:25, 16:30, 17:05, 17:35, 18:35, 19:10 and 20:10 — return schedules are available online (in Thai — return times are on the bottom left of the table, the top left is arrival back in Bangkok) or when you get to the railway station — last return to Bangkok at 19:00.
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