A couple of days ago some friends and I took a trip out to Samut Sakhon, or Mahachai as it is also known. It’s a fishing port about 30 kms from Bangkok, connected to Bangkok by a rickety old railway line. After starting our trip on the modern BTS “Skytrain” and then walking a few hundred metres to Wong Wian Yai railway station our transport went back to the 3rd world.
The platform was almost hidden by vendors but we found the ticket office, where I paid a ridiculously cheap fare of 10 baht while my Thai friends travelled for free but still had to queue up for a ticket, which was carefully checked by the conductor on the train !
Luckily we arrived just before departure time, so we were soon rattling out through the suburbs. Wong Wian railway station is close to some very expensive modern condos, but the train is soon passing shacks of corrugated iron and plastic tarpaulins built right next to the track and then, in the newer outer suburbs moo baans (housing estates) full of identical cookie cutter homes. Out of the city the banana trees were almost brushing up against the carriage, the trackside was overgrown with jungle, with the occasional glimpse of a rice paddy or farm dam, and all too frequent piles of rubbish dumped alongside the track….not the most photogenic of trips so far !
A dozen tiny stations and an hour later we arrived in Mahachai, where the market is spread out along the railway line and into town. The girls instantly went into shopping mode, checking the prices of all the seafood they were going to buy after lunch.
The town is one of the few places that still has samlor (cycle rickshaws) plying the streets.
The Lonely Planet guidebook and a Bangkok Post article had mentioned a seafood restaurant near the pier, which was my original idea for lunch, but a couple of locals said it had gone up in price and down in quality since it became well known, as often happens
They told us to follow the riverbank upstream to another restaurant, Baan Rim Nam. We passed an elaborately decorated Chinese temple, elaborate even for a Chinese temple. The Chinese junks used to anchor here when they traded with old Siam. It’s also the only temple I’ve seen with cannons out the front !
We found the restaurant and feasted on prawn curry, crab, whole steamed fish, more prawns, rice and vegetables …enough food and drinks for at least 4 people for 1100 baht, just over 30 dollars.
After lunch we went back to the market, via a huge new wat near the restaurant and then the Chinese temple so the girls could make merit before the more earthly pursuits of shopping.
The wat had a new building under construction, using bamboo scaffolding and rope …we were not in the big city any more. The market is full of vendors selling all sorts of fresh and dried seafood. The girls tell me the dried seafood keeps for a year … I’ll take their word for it.
Several kilos of assorted seafood later they had emptied their purses, so time to head back to the city. This time we did have to wait quite a while for the next train, I passed the time watching the staff trying to pack ballast under the rails where it had dipped and tilted about 15cms ! Luckily it was at the station where the train would be travelling dead slow. It certainly rocked and rolled on the way to and from Bangkok, no wonder it takes an hour to travel around 30 kms. Still, what do you expect for 10 baht, or around 30 cents ?
All in all, a pleasant day out was had by everybody.