Over the river and through the woods…Part 2.
Fortunately, if you read my previous blog post, I made the jump safely onto the ferry as it was departing from the dock. Now, sitting next to Pierre and Bila, I had no idea where I was headed…but I knew I could put my faith and trust in my two capable companions. How can you NOT trust someone (Pierre) who had already been traveling for over seven months, from France to South America, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, and everywhere in between! It was also apparent to me that the beautiful, and gracious Bila, was herself an extremely accomplished traveler! I had no doubt I was in good hands with these two. In just the short amount of time I had known them, I knew they were amazing people. I will never regret skipping out on that seafood for what I was sure was going to be a great time, and they definitely did NOT let me down.
The trip across the river was a fairly short one, and the three of us were quite excited to get on with our journey to the Mae Klong Train station, home of the Train Market (I later found out the actual name of this market in Thai is “Talad Rom Hoop” which literally translates in English to “Umbrella Pulldown Market”). Here is a hyperlink to a video showing the train traveling through the market. After watching it, I think you will understand why it is aptly named the “Umbrella Pulldown Market”! The awnings for the shop fronts, to keep the rain away during the rainy season, are commonly called umbrella pulldowns.
Fresh off the ferry, we were now on the hunt for the Ban Laem Train Station. We strolled down the main street of the small town until we found some locals, and Pierre was able to communicate to them what we were looking for. With a bit of Thai and broken English, and using Pierre’s GPS on his smart phone, we established we were heading in the right direction. Knowing we were not far away, our pace increased with excited anticipation, until we were finally standing in front of the station.
Once there, we looked at each other bewilderingly, wondering where the rest of the passengers were. No one was there other than the three of us, and what appeared to be a few railway workers possibly working on the tracks. We surmised this due to the fact that they had a smallish pickup truck filled with some railroad ties, but that really didn’t reassure us of anything. Pierre was able to communicate to them that we were wanting to catch the train to Mae Klong, and all of a sudden they began to hurriedly try to usher us into the truck. It did have an extended cab, and the three of us, along with the driver COULD fit into the cab, but is this REALLY what we wanted to do? Should we just jump into a truck on the outskirts of a small town in Thailand, without any of us really sure where the driver was taking us? Pierre was able to establish that wherever we were headed, the ride would come at no charge. Pierre, Bila, and I looked at each other with a “what the hell” look, and dived into the seats, the adventurous souls that we are!
This was another one of those moments when you are traveling that you just have to place your hands into the people you are meeting in other countries. I was only hoping this wasn’t going to turn out like my experience the day before, with the taxi driver, and somehow maybe we had miscommunicated our final destination. After traveling about ten minutes or so, with a bit of trepidation, the driver made a sharp turn and there was a train! It appeared they were waiting for us, as everyone had already boarded, and our driver waved to someone standing at the entrance of one of the cars. I surmised at this point that someone had radioed ahead from where we previously were that we were en-route, and would be arriving shortly. I would like to add that this just reinforced my appreciation toward the Thai people. The driver did not have to do this, and there are many countries, United States included, where they would have just told us they were sorry, we had missed the train, and would have to wait for another one.
It didn’t take long for us to see that the second line of the Wongwian Yai to Mae Klong train line was traveling through some of the more serene parts of the country. Flocks of the beautiful Eastern great egret were feeding in the marshes off to one side of the tracks. Sea salt is also very prevalent in this area, as the provinces of Samut Songkhram and Samut Sakhon are the two most productive areas of salt harvesting in Thailand, according to CNN. You can see many of these saltern or salt pan fields when looking out both sides of the train, along the way. I also found that Thailand produces on average about five million tons of sea salt a year, according to a UNICEF article I read. That’s a whole lot of salt to have to throw over your shoulder if you spill some to prevent bad luck!
The hour train ride passed rather quickly, as we sat and enjoyed each other’s company, and took in the beautiful scenery. One of the railroad attendants on the train was nice enough to take the photo of the three of us (above), and even shared some of his lunch! Soon we found ourselves arriving at the Mae Klong market…it was pretty unbelievable! If I wanted to, I could have reached out and touched the many hundreds of people that were standing next to the tracks as we went by. For locals, obviously it’s just part of their daily routine, but for everyone else it’s quite the spectacle, and they were all standing ready with their cameras for a snapshot of a train slowly winding through a market!
This really was a truly amazing market, and as I posted before, this is one of Thailand’s largest seafood markets. Pierre, Bila, and I sat down for lunch together, then spent our time walking through the market, hoping to catch the train as it left so we could take some photos and videos of all the awnings (umbrella pulldowns) being pulled up out of the way, but it was not to be…we missed our chance when the train left before we could get back to the tracks! The three of us sadly parted ways, the two of them were staying in town, and I had to get back to Bangkok to my hostel. I can honestly say, I miss them immensely…and yes, it was indeed one “helluva day!”
It took a bit of figuring out, but with some patience and some help from a few of the locals that could understand my English, I found a minibus, and was on the road back to my hostel, with some memories I will always treasure of the three of us, and our wild adventure. The town of Samut Songkhram (the capital of the province by the same name), where the Mae Klong Train station is located, is one more place I will put on my list to travel back to. It is an exotic place, with a market I, and my new friends will never forget! This place is well worth a visit, and next time I will stay a night or two to savor the experience a little bit longer. I hope everyone will continue to follow my blog as I write about my always fun and sometimes crazy adventures in S.E. Asia!