Saturday, June 13, 2009

Off the beaten path: A hidden railway towards the Gulf of Siam and Amphawa Floating Market



Would you like to travel to Amphawa floating market (อัมพวา) in a very comfortable way? Well, then book a tour from your hotel in Bangkok. You will go by bus or by taxi. But that's not what I am talking about here. Let's instead have some adventure off the beaten path and discover a small railway, where you normally will meet no other farang, but be part of Thai daily life. But be aware, that Amphawa Floating market is only open on weekends: on Friday from 3 pm to 10 pm, on Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 10.00 pm.

First you have to discover Wongwian Yai Railway Station (วงเวียนใหญ่) in Thonburi. The exact location you get here on a Google Map.

From this station a one-hour-trip on the train leads to Mahachai (มหาชัย), today called Samut Sakhon (สมุทรสาคร). Let's consult the timetable. Then we get a ticket for 10 Bath per person at the ticket office (or you can buy it in the train). For this price you will of course not expect aircondition. But some trains have, as thaitransit.blogspot.com notes, where you also find the history of these lines.



As soon as you leave the station you will see, that there is not much room left on both sides of the train. You pass houses, foodstalls, gardens and temples as Wat Sing:



Or you see people walking along the trainline or looking at the train and you will stop at tiny stations as in Rang Pho:



The Stations are often stores with tables, where locals sit down to eat their meals.

Later on the train rolls through the lush countryside:



You pass small villages and fields. Now you see rural Thailand. You cross and follow Khlongs:



Then the train will stop again at the station near Wat Sophanaram (วัดโสภณาราม):







Soon the landscape changes from countryside to suburbs. And suddenly you drive through a fresh food market and arrive at Mahachai station. Funny: As soon as the train has gone past, the market vendors put their goods back on the rails. See a video . And see very good pictures by Marcus&Claudia. The market lies between Rat Banchop Road and Sukhaphiban Road. It is a fresh seafood markets and you find many stalls to eat fish, prawns, crab and more seafood. Read about this market on iluvthailand.wordpress.com. Background about the markets and temples of Samut Sakhon you discover on thailandbytrain.com. There is also the Mahachai Mangrove Research Station, where you find a surprising number of bird species.

Now you have to find the way to the ferry crossing the Tha Chin River. Get out of the station and turn left into Rat Banchop Road:



And soon turn left again towards the ferry.



The ferry will only leave shortly before the nect train leaves Ban Laem Station. So you can sit here in a restaurant, have some food and look at the fishers unloading their ship:



The fisherboat will soon leace again for the next catch:



Take the ferry now for 2 Baht. And see the birds having a rest on Tha Chin River:



From the ferry you can also have a glimpse at Wat Pom Wichian Chotikaram (วัดป้อมวิเชียรโชติการาม):



At the West bank you find the Ban Laem station.



From this station another railway line leads to Maeklong (แม่กลอง), today called Samut Songkhram (สมุทรสงคราม). Here there are not so many trains, as you can see on this timetable:



Trains to Samut Songkram depart at 07.30, 10.10,13.30, and 16.40. Return trains leave Samut Songkram at 06.20, 09.00, 11.30 and 15.30. The journey takes about 60 minutes. If you miss the train, you can take a bus between Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkram and also between Samut Songkhram and Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal.

The train at 13.30 arrives:



A lot of pictures of this railway line you find on thaitransit.blogspot.com

The landscape changes again: On both sides of the trail you now see fields of water as far als the eye reaches: You ride now between prawn and salt farms.





This video by gwmss15 gives a good impression of the rodeo-like trainride.

Finally you arrive at Maeklong Station:



And as soon as the train has passed, the market-people spread their stalls and goods across the rails:



Read more about the two railway lines on 2bangkok.com. Enjoy a videoby interneko.

In Samut Songkhram we now have to look for a Minibus or a Bus to Amphawa. At the Municipal Market we get a bus from Mae Klong to Bang Nok Khwaek and Ratchaburi. And we can get off in front of Wat Amphawan Chetiyaram. From here you walk back a little bit and arrive at the khlong, where the Amphawa floating market takes place.



It can be very cowded, because a lot of Thais and not so many foreigners have discovered this place:



Old wooden shophouses along the canal sell traditional Thai dishes, fresh fruits, sweets, clothes, artwork and handicrafts.









And in the canal there are hawkers in wooden boats selling noodles and grilled prawn, squid and octopus, fruits and vegetables at very low prices.







Beside the khlong you find eateries, for example "Ngo Pojchana" with ThaiChinese meals like shrimp sausages, fried squid with garlic or tom yam. And don't miss Thai desserts like ta ko (waterchestnut custard with coconut topping) and khanom sai sai (steamed pudding with sweet coconut filling).

The old Chinese shop-houses have been renovated by a partnership of Amphawa Municipality, the Office of Natural and Environmental Policy and Planning, the Faculty of Architecture at Chulalungkorn University and the Danish International Development Agency. Read about the result and see pictures on informalism.net






But there is more to discover in Amphawa: In the night the fireflies, living in the mangroves near the sea and in the lampoo trees, get active, you can see them switch on and off their lights on boat tours around 7 or 8 pm. The run on this phenomen has caused some annoyance among the risdents, as The Nation wrote. Read more about the fireflies-tours by Vipasai

If you finish your visit before the night, you can catch a bus back to Bangkok. But if you want to go for the fireflies tour, you have to stay for the night. Not worry: There are nice homestays and resorts in Amphawa. There is a guide, "Mon Rak Mae Klong" (Bt40), where you find a choice of these. And here you get a listing too:

An Inn

Baan Amphawa Resort & Spa:

Baan Mai Chailane:

Baanrak Amphawa:

Baanrak Resort: From 3500 Baht.

Bannsuam-Sainam:

Boobpharesort:

ChababaanCham Resort ชบาบานฉ่ำ รีสอร์ท:

Chotika Riverfront House, a wooden building with nine guestrooms, built in 1942, originally a sawmill. The guesthouse is located at Mae Klong River, in a residential area. It has been described by The Nation. See also maeklongdee.com

Fon Home Stay. From 200 Baht.Friendly Ms. Fon offers rooms in her lovely Thai house and also arranges boat trips.

Ploen Amphawa Resort: From 1600 Baht.

Thai Boat House:

Thanicha Boutique Resort: From 1200 Baht.

And here is the search for homestays by tourismthailand.org. Just give Amphawa as keyword and you get a lot of places to stay.

In the morning, you can rise early and watch the monk’s make their rounds, some in boats while others walk the klong.


Picture by bimsarinee


And may be you would like to see another Floating market today: Tha Kha Floating Market ist just nearby (every Saturday and Sunday between 8am-11am. Tha Kha specializes in fruits and vegetables.


If you don't want to do the tour to Amphawa yourself, you can book it with a guide at tour.savehotels.com or at exotissimo.

If you want to go by Bus from Bangkok directly to Amphawa, you find public buses on the Bangkok-Ratchaburi-Damnoen Saduak route, which depart from the Southern Bus Terminal in Thon Buri (The Transport Co., Ltd. services)




Discover more in Bangkok:
Your Guide to Bangkok


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1 comment:

草微 said...

Hi, i'm from Malaysia. Thanks for the info you had provided on your blog, it was very useful. Although it takes longer times to travel by railway from Bangkok to Maeklong, but it was a very unforgettable and good experience.
Thanks again for sharing your info!