Thailand – Colourful Markets and a Hill Top Palace

Thailand is known for its interesting markets. They are popular with tourists because of the wide variety of exotic foods. Some are also known for their remarkable settings. Two hours south of Bangkok are three very unique markets: Maeklong, Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak.

MaeKlong Train Market

Maeklong Train Market would be a typical Thai market except that it takes place on an active railroad line. The market is just down from the Maeklong Railway Station and follows the train tracks for a few blocks. Small market stalls crowd in the space between the rail lines and buildings. Vendors sell fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and other mysterious meats. Goods are displayed on trays or big plates right on the edge of the train tracks. Most stalls have moveable awnings to keep the hot sun off their wares. Shoppers walk along the railroad tracks moving from stall to stall while trying not to trip over the uneven ties.

A couple of minutes before the train arrives a horn sounds. Vendors pulls in their goods, raise their awnings and shoppers hop into openings between the stalls. The train travels through the market, coming within inches of the stalls. Some items that were left in place are narrowly missed as the train passes over top. Then, as soon as the train passes, the trays go back out, awnings come down and shoppers re-emerge. They have it down to an art form. It’s one of the craziest settings for a busy market.

Amphawa Floating Market

A fifteen-minute drive from Maeklong is the Amphawa Floating Market. The weekend market is held along the canal in Amphawa. Vendors, mostly women, serve meals of soup or grilled fish and seafood cooked on their long-tail boats. Patrons, on land, eat at narrow benches along the water’s edge. There are also stalls on land selling fruit and other goods such as clothing, candies and souvenirs.

The market is 3 or 4 blocks long with a pedestrian bridge at either end. There is a constant stream of shoppers moving along the sidewalks and over the bridges. We watched the action for a while and then had a yummy lunch of grilled snapper, rice and a cashew salad. After our meal we saw a man washing dishes in the river. It’s a good thing we didn’t see this before our lunch.

At night the market really comes alive. Lights from the boats and shops reflect off the calm water. As the sun went down we were treated to a beautiful sunset behind the canal.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

At 10 minute tuk-tuk ride away is, Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. This is the most popular floating market in Thailand. It is very colourful with long-tail boats full of fruits, veggies and flowers floating up and down the small canal. Some boats even sell coconut ice cream, soup and other snacks. The difference at this market is that customers can also travel in long-tail boats and float beside the merchant boats. There is only one small sidewalk beside the canal, so the best views are from one of the 2 bridges at either end.

Operating your business on a small boat has a few disadvantages. One of them is passing goods and receiving payments from customers who are on land. They have an interesting solution to that. Long sticks with bags or pots on the end are used to pass transactions back and forth.

Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace

On hour south of Damnoen Sadauk is the small city of Phetchaburi, often called Phet Buri. On top of a hill above town is a beautiful palace, a stupa and a temple. The walk up to the palace is an event on its own. Aggressive long-tailed macaque monkeys patrol the sidewalks and growl at passers-by in hopes they’ll drop some food. The palace employees are armed with slingshots to help keep the monkeys away. We armed ourselves with sticks. Richard was very good at keeping us safe. These were the some of the most aggressive monkeys we came across in Asia.

The hill has 3 peaks. On the first, is Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace built in the 1850s. It was used by the king as a retreat from Bangkok. It’s a simple palace, but built in an extraordinary setting. The middle hill has a large chedi (stupa). The stone stupa with a bright white base can be seen across the hilltops. The last peak has a small wat (temple) on top. All the buildings are in very good condition and the setting makes for fantastic pictures.

Not far from the palace hill is a cave shrine, called Tham Khao Luang. It is a natural cave with 3 large caverns. In the mid-1800s the king began to fill the cave with Buddha statues. Today there are over 170 statues in the cave making it an impressive shrine to Buddha.

Walking through the streets in Phet Buri we were often chased by long-tailed macaques. Since we’ve been home in Canada we watched a documentary about the aggressive monkeys in Phet Buri. That let us know we were not the only ones being chased.

To watch our 2 minute video from Maeklong Train Market click below.

Coming next – Thailand – Ancient Capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai

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75 comments

  • Relacja jak zawsze bardzo ciekawa i pelna szczegolow i ciekawostek. Zdjecie z malpa -super. Widac ducha walki i strach w oczach malpki ;). Pozdrawiamy i czekamy na wiecej.

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  • Merry Christmas! or if Christmas has come and gone, Happy 2018!
    Enjoying your blog. Photos are magnificent, Richard. A wonderful adventure!
    Love to you both, Jean

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  • Hey, Merry Christmas. (a little late, found out from Jill how to reply). had a great xmas mom, Brian & Jill over for morning breakfast and mom back for supper. Your trip is looking great ( lots of reading, not much for pictures of you two). Be safe Love Andy & Cathy.

    ________________________________

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  • Your post gives me the desire to visit Thailand again. I didn’t see the Bangkok markets, only Chiang Mai’s and Sukhotai’s. It was different, but also amazing. Thank you, Maggie, for the beautiful post, I am a fan of Thailand sunsets also ! Hugs and kisses, Diana

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    • Thanks Diana, Thailand does have fascinating markets doesn’t it. I don’t think we visited the one in Sukhothai. Thanks for reading! Maggie

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  • A market will arise wherever there are customers. Looks like the vendors on the rail tracks are well “trained”. That is just crazy and they are lucky it is not a high speed line. Thanks for sharing. Allan

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    • They train for this event 🙂 The train does travel at a pretty slow. It’s actually slowing down to enter the station., but I’m not sure that this line every travels very fast. Thanks for reading! Maggie

      Liked by 1 person

  • Looks like the Mae Klong Railway Market is a very fun and unique experience! I love visiting markets where different types of vendors selling fruits, vegetables, fishes etc, but I still haven’t been to the one that can be found sitting right next to the railway line. Was the market was there first, and then they built the train line right through it or vice versa? Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva 🙂

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    • It was one of the most bizarre markets we’ve ever seen. You’re right it was a lot of fun, jumping into an open spot, watching the stalls bring their food in and then out again to the exact right positions. I think the market was there first and after the rail way was built going through it, the vendors refused to leave. Only in Thailand 🙂 Thanks for reading Aiva, Maggie

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  • The train market is amazing. What skills to place their produce on so tiny a space. Not to mention the skill of the train drivers. Great share as always. Thoroughly enjoyed. 👍🚇🚉

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    • Thanks Suzette, It was quite the thing to see. Everything was timed and placed perfectly, it was fascinating to watch. Some tourists take the train to the market to see it from that perspective. I wish we had dont that too, would have been fun! Maggie

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  • At first I thought it was an unused railway line … but no! Must have been the craziest market I’ve ever seen! I liked your description of the “mysterious meat” and washing of the plates in the river … 😁.
    Very interesting post, thanks guys!

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  • Oh wow, what amazing markets, the train market is incredible, your photos are fantastic and we loved your video of the train passing through and just clearing those bowls of food, what a strange life for these people. The floating market is colourful, we had a similar experience with washing of plates when we were in Zanzibar, usually best if you just close your eyes to these bits 😧. So can’t wait to get going on our Asia trip

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  • Wow! Very creative to have markets next to the railway and floating markets! I am sure the monkeys can definitely be a nuisance! Looks like an awesome place to check out

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    • They really have fascinating markets in Thailand. Most of the monkeys were fun, but these ones were very aggresive. It was a bit scary! Thanks for reading!Maggie

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  • What a coincidence! I have just finished writing up my visit to Phetchaburi and that incredible hilltop palace. Love your take and the accompanying photos. What better post from Monkey’s Tale than a piece on Thailand’s mesmerising Monkey City. Despite spending over two months exploring Thailand I didn’t mange to see Damnoen Sadauk, so also enjoyed that segment very much!

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  • These are such unique types of markets. Can’t say I’ve ever been to a train or floating market before. It must have been neat to see the contrast of the floating market in the day compared to night.

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    • There are definintely unusual markets in Thailand. The market was interesting during the day, but had such a different atmosphere at night, more like we were at a local fair.

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    • Haha, yes, you certainly wouldln’t find that market in the west. The train doesn’t move too fast, but it can’t stop quickly either. I don’t think hygiene is a concern at any of those markets.

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  • Amazing. It’s almost like they said, “Let’s find the most dangerous and inconvenient place to put a market, and put our market there.” Haha. I’m sure that’s not the case, but I do wonder why that place was chosen. I wonder if it just developed slowly over time with, say, a vendor saying, “Meet me by the train tracks” and it grew from there…

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    • It was actually a market first and they didn’t want to leave when the train tracks were put in so now they’ve adapted. I can just imagine the fights with those little old ladies and the government! It’s insane 🙂

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  • Love that train market! how crazy is that! Before Covid was a thing my daughter in law and I had planned a trip to Thailand and so we had researched some of those markets. I remember reading about the train one. Then along came Covid and we rebooked (thinking Asia may not be the safest place to go) and did Portugal…little did we know it would affect the whole world!

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  • This is such a different world there! Squid are definitely more beautiful with life in their eyes. It may be difficult for someone who doesn’t like seafood to visit a location wherein such dead creatures are a staple. The floating markets are neat, as is Tailandese writings. The architecture & statues are amazing.

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  • Wow, the market along the train tracks might just be the strangest thing I’ve ever heard of. I can’t believe how close the people were standing as the train went past! And a floating market too… things I never knew existed.

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  • Thailand is one of my favorite Asian destinations. In many ways, you don’t feel you are in a different counrry because most SE Asian countries have similar culture, similar mindset and social fabric. The bustling markets are common across SE Asia. Flower/ floating markets are definitely unique.

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    • The markets in SE Asia are always fascinating. For us it’s usually because of the different food and flowers, but these ones had all that plus really fun settings. I could easily return to Thailand, I love it there too.

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      • Thailand has a nice vibe. Given a choice, I would choose to visit Thailand, again. Somehow, in this part of the world, many people get suspicious when you say you are visiting Thailand. I don’t think I have to explain that. But beyond all this, it is a beautiful world out there.

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  • I loved visiting the floating market. But I’ve never heard of the train market – that’s amazing! It’s surprising what people get used to when that’s their own environment.

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  • I have heard of this MaeKlong Train Market and have also seen them in many travel series and they are definitely the craziest of all. The floating markets are impressive. The Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace is so beautiful.

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  • Must say these markets are dangerous to venture into…can’t think of buying a dress amidst water bodies or eating on a table which is dangling! Adventurous though! The markets of Thailand have such a temporary setting, even the train market for that matter. Nevertheless quite amazed with the whole experience. Glad you shared such detailed pictures of the train market, showing the stage before and after the train passed! Informative and incredible. The sunset and the hilltops are equally astonishing!

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    • Temporary and yet they’ve been in those same locations for decades. Thailands markets are defininitely unique and would probably never be allowed in most countries, but fun to explore. Thanks for reading! Maggie

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  • I’ve seen the floating markets, but I’d never heard of the train track market. That is crazy! Any idea how often the trains rumble by? Your photos are spectacular. I love the feature photo with the sunset over the floating market.

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    • I can’t remeber exactly how often but there are a few tains a day. The market is near the station, which is the end of the line so the train arrives, waits 30 minutes or so and then departs. While it’s waiting, the market opens up again. There’s not much room to cram between the stalls so for the first train it was a little hectic for us. The next train we knew what to look for and where to go. It is a crazy market!

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