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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 in Samut Sakhon province, about 45 kilometres southwest of Bangkok. It squats the mouth of the Tha Jeen River as it heads out into the Gulf of Thailand. This is where you go to do nothing, for no particular period of time, in the cool ocean breeze. Take a ferry across the river, look at wats, and smell fish. There’s a lot of fish to smell in the market, one of the biggest in Thailand.
The market, speaking from the point of view of someone who has a serious need to see every market — ever — is incredible. Loads 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 train arrives from Bangkok, vendors have to move their wares off the tracks for the train to pull into the station. Come early enough and you might see the fishing boats unloading their catch down by the docks. At all times, a maze of vendors sell a breathtaking selection of dried seafood and shrimp paste, which Samut Sakhon province is famous for.
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. Once you alight in Mahachai and explore the market, head down to the pier and cross the river to Tha Chalom, a town of old houses and temples that retains its heavy Chinese influence thanks to the isolation created by the surrounding oxbow in the Tha Jeen. You can continue on another train from here to Mae Khlong in Samut Songkrham province, home to another market where the train pushes out the vendors several times a day.
How to get there
Take the BTS to Wongwian Yai, 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.
By Brock Kuhlman
Last updated on 6th March, 2015.