The next time you're down at your local mall, imagine this scenario:
Eight times a day, the shopkeepers have to interrupt their business, quickly pull down the roofs of their shops, drag their goods inside, then stand against their shop fronts breathing in – to let a train go through!
Welcome to the Mae Klong railway market in a small town in Thailand, 72 kilometres south west of Bangkok.
I had expected the market to be in the middle of nowhere but it's right in the centre of town, the last 100 metres before the station. ?
It's quite surreal in a temporary sort of way, like a movie set.
The only place to walk is in the centre of the rather narrow railway tracks. Small stalls line both sides, every available bit of real estate is used, low plastic trays of vegetables and vibrant Thai fruit including rambutans and mangosteens, are stacked right up to the steel rails.
What happens when the train comes through? I had flashbacks about that wonder kitchen gadget, the Chop-o-matic, which “slices, dices and juliennes!”?
The market is your veritable one-stop-shop. Spectacular fresh-cut flowers, fragrant spices, cuts of meat, poultry and seafood so fresh, it was being persuaded to stop flapping about by an earnest man wielding a lump of wood.?There are kids' toys, clothes, lingerie, thongs of both varieties, dodgey DVDs – you name it.
Makeshift awnings – tarpaulins, even a bedspread – cover the stalls.
They combine to give the market a temporary roof that is quite low, so I had to stoop to walk through. It was fairly dark under the awnings, with a pungent buffet of unrefrigerated fish, meat and cut fruit, garnished with spices. ?Some of the stalls are basic; others well set up. Some aren't even stalls, just people sitting beside the tracks with fruit laid out at their feet.?
Then it happened.
The shopkeepers calmly but quickly started folding down the awnings. Most were held up by poles, a simple but effective design. Trays of produce were dragged in; some more high-tech versions were on wheels.
The train rounded the corner and rumbled through the market.
I was surprised at its speed!
There were only inches to spare between the train, the produce on the ground and me. The two carriages were past in a flash of grey and yellow and milliseconds later, the stallholders were on the tracks putting up the awnings, even before the train had disappeared from view.
It was as though nothing had happened.?
I wandered down to the other end of the market. I knew the train would depart the station soon but I lost track of time, engrossed. I was only vaguely aware of the awnings being lowered again, then turned around to see a great mass of locomotive bearing down on me.
Deceptively quiet, trains. I jammed myself up against a wooden board, breathing in as the train almost gave me a Brazilian as it not-quite hurtled by.?
It's a snapshot of life in a small town in Thailand, people going about their daily business, doing their shopping...
...just being interrupted eight times a day by a bloody big train.
Travel tip shared by randomswill