Get rail close at this market

SAMUT SONGKHRAM (Thailand) • A train bell rouses a Thai grandmother dozing at her fruit and flower stall, sending her rushing to fold in her awning before the locomotive slowly rumbles past, so close that it almost touches her wares.

Six times a day at the Mae Klong Railway Market, local customers and foreign tourists scramble into nooks and crannies while vendors calmly move their woven baskets of goods away from the tracks and close their umbrellas to make way.

Hundreds of stallholders carve out a living along this 500m stretch of railway in Samut Songkhram, 80km west of Bangkok, selling everything from fresh produce and live turtles to clothes and souvenirs.

"Even though it looks risky and dangerous, it's not dangerous at all," said fruit and vegetable vendor Samorn Armasiri.

Her family has run a stall in the bazaar - nicknamed in Thai "talad rom hup", or the umbrella-pull-down market - for five decades and she has never witnessed an accident.

"When the train enters, officers sound the horn and everybody packs his or her stuff - they know the drill," she said.

The sides of the train carriages pass directly over - with just centimetres to spare - bags of lettuce, broccoli, onions, ginger, chilli, tomatoes and carrots placed carefully on the outside of the rails.

In recent years, the spectacle had become a hub for coconut-drinking backpackers in elephant pants and Instagram selfie enthusiasts, but the pandemic hit hard.

Now, with Thailand dropping Covid-19 entry restrictions, tourism is picking up once more.

Australian Ella McDonald, on a two-day stopover on her way to Turkey, was among those marvelling at the market's organised chaos.

"It was crazy and hectic," she said. "I was shocked at how big the train was in the small amount of space."


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