Looking for something a little different to do for a day in Bangkok? Try a train trip on the Mae Khlong Railway to Mahachai, otherwise known as Samut Sakhon.
The opening of the Skytrain service to Wong Wian Yai has now made it relatively easy to get to the railway station with the same name, without the need to take a taxi. In reality, Wong Wian Yai railway station is nothing more than a street lined with shops that has a railway track running down the middle. One of the shops serves as the ticket office and has a glass window where you can purchase tickets. There is no double pricing here, as it costs just 10 baht for the 55-minute journey to Mahachai station and another 10 baht for the journey back, which all serves to make the Skytrain the most expensive part of the journey. To get to the railway station take Skytrain exit 1, walk down the steps and turn to your left, walking in the same direction that the Skytrain was travelling, until you come to some traffic lights. Turn right and take the first footbridge across the dual carriageway. Once across the road, continue in the same direction and take the first left. You will see the train tracks in the middle of the road indicating that you have arrived at the railway station. The ticket booth is on the right-hand side.
The railway was originally a private line built to carry fish from the port of Samut Sakhon to Bangkok but was later incorporated into the State Railway system although it was never connected to the rest of the network.
Passengers, who are almost exclusively locals, wait patiently for the train to arrive. When the diesel train pulls in, it rapidly disgorges its passengers a few minutes before the scheduled departure time of 10:40. The 3rd class, fan ventilated carriages are soon reoccupied and the train pulls out exactly on time. Punctuality seems to be a feature of this service, due in all probability to the fact that the line is single track with passing places and one train has to wait for the other to arrive at the scheduled passing place.
The train rattles and bumps its way along the track to the frequent accompaniment of the train's horn which the driver sounds rather often and for prolonged periods in order to warn others of the approach of the train. The train passes through small villages, over khlongs, through spells of open countryside and quite a number of impressive looking wats to offer up a rather fascinating insight into Thai rural and village life. The train stops, only for a few seconds each time, at half a dozen or so other “stations” on route allowing passengers to board or alight. At one of these stations, the train actually straddles the roadway holding up the traffic. The ride is quite pleasant as there is a nice breeze flowing through the windows, but be careful not to stick your head out of the window as the train passes very close to some structures. It is also not unusual to get showered with shredded leaves as the train makes its way through some of the vegetation lining the more rural parts of the track!
As the train approaches Mahachai station it slows to allow the vendors, crowded in and around the railway station, to move out of the way to let the train pass. The train inches its way into the station and comes to a halt in the middle of a bustling meat, fish, fruit and vegetable market. Samut Sakhon is a former trading port and is the capital of the province with the same name. It lies at the mouth of the Tha Chin river and is now a busy fishing port providing fish to Bangkok. Consequently, it is a great place for cheap and extremely fresh seafood with restaurants overlooking the river where wonderful seafood such as delicious prawns in soy sauce and a sea bass steamed in chili and lime juice can be obtained
A stroll through the town, which has a much different feel to it than Bangkok, gives a much better indication of real Thai life especially due to the absence of farangs (the name given by Thais to Westerners) Indeed, farangs can expect some inquisitive looks if they wander through the market inspecting the selections of seafood and vegetables. The 3:25 P.M. train back to Wong Wian Yai should ensure an arrival time of around 5:00 P.M. back in the centre of Bangkok.
If you are looking to do something different while in Bangkok, this excursion is very worthwhile and you will find yourself submersed in “real” Thai life.