The Mae Khlong Mahachai Railway
Mae Khlong Mahachai Railway
It is possible to find odd stretches of railway in Thailand which are not part of the main network. My friend
Mark Barton who was living at that time in Thonburi, introduced me to the Mae Khlong-Mahachai railway which runs between
Wong Wian Yai in Thonburi, West Bangkok, and Samut Songkhram on the Gulf of
Originally constructed as a private line to take sea produce from
the fishing ports of Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkram to the markets of Bangkok, it
later became part of the State Railway of Thailand, though it was never physically
connected to the rest of the network.
This little known line has great charm, passing through surprisingly
unspoilt countryside, and apparently terminating in the middle of the
fresh food market in Samut Sakhon, formerly known as Mahachai.
However, if you take the 2 baht ferry across the Tha Chin river, you
will find a parallel station on the west bank. Trains connect from
there to Samut Songkhram on the Mae Khlong river - thus the name Mae
Catch the BTS Skytrain to Wong Wian Yai railway station; leave the station on the north side and turn left towards the intersection
visible about 400 meters ahead. Turn right at the intersection into Phra Chao Taksin Road. The station is located
400 meters up on the left hand side of the road, next to the pedestrian bridge, and about 200 meters short of the King *Taksin Monument.
Trains to Samut Sakhon run every 60 minutes or so from 05.30 until 20.10 hrs. Last train back leaves Samut Sakhon
at 19.00. Phone number for Wong Wian Yai Station is 02-465-2017. Most trains have fan only, though occasionally you find one or two air-con
carriages: I prefer the open-air ones. Return trains to Bangkok tend to be quite crowded, especially in the late afternoon. The trip to Samut Sakhon takes
about 55 minutes.
*King Taksin the Great
King Taksin the Great
King Taksin the Great (1767 - 1782) is famous in Thai history for driving out the Burmese
invaders after their sack of the old capital of Ayutthaya
A Chinese with the given name "Sin", he was adopted by high ranking Thai parents and eventually became governor of Tak (on the north west border with Burma), and
later nearby Kamphaeng Phet, so he is sometimes known as Phraya Tak (governor of Tak) or Phraya Kamphaeng Phet.
After many battles, he succeeded in driving out the Burmese for good, but Ayutthaya had been completely destroyed and
he therefore founded a new capital at Thonburi in what is now West Bangkok. The name by which he is know in Thai history
combines his two former names into "Taksin".
He was the first and only Thonburi king, as his successor King Rama I moved the capital across
the river to its current location.
Interactive Map of Samut Sakhon
A. Mahachai Market
B. City Pillar Shrine
C. Bahn Laem Railway Station
D. Guan Yin Shrine
E. Wat Chong Lom
An old fishing port at the mouth of the Tha Chin river. The railway
line is still used to carry fresh fish from the port to the markets of
The station is in the middle of a huge market, and is usually
heaving with people. Where the track crosses a road, about 100m up the line, vendors
find a convenient resting place between the rails for their trays of vegetables, fruit and fish - until the next train is due.
The market lies between Rat Banchop Road to the north, and Sukhaphiban Road to the south. It is one of the largest fresh
seafood markets in Thailand, and if you want to sample some of the produce, many stalls and small restaurants serve
fish, prawns, crab and other seafood, freshly cooked in Thai style.
Beyond the fresh-food market and alongside Rat Banchop Road is a general market, where you can buy
clothing, electronic goods and some handicrafts. As the train drops passengers right in the middle
of the busy fresh-food market it can be quite disorienting, but if you get off on the left hand side of
the train, walk through the main entrance to the station and turn left into Sukhaphiban Road, which leads to the main street
of the town, not far from the river. Alternatively, get off on the other side of the trrain and walk through the market to Rat Banchop Road and
take a left turn towards the town center.
Fishing boat heading out to sea
As in many sea ports in South East Asia, the Chinese influence is
still very strong (the name Tha Chin means Chinese Port), with several
Chinese Buddhist Shrines and temples. There is a small Chinese temple in the
center of town, near the market, but the best known of these is the temple dedicated to
the Goddess Kuan Yin, with a huge image of the goddess on top of the temple.
To get there, take the ferry to the west bank off the river (2 baht per person) and
then a samlor bicycle taxi. The distance is about 3 km along Sutthiwawithi Road.
Kuan Yin Temple
Kuan Yin, originally a Chinese deity, was later identified with Avalokitesvara, the
bodhisattva of compassion in Mahayana Buddhism. Known in Thailand
as Guan Im, she is much venerated by Thais of Chinese
ancestory. In her right hand is a flask from which issues an endless
stream of compassion and mercy; in her left hand she holds a sprig
of rice, a symbol of fertility.
Kuan Yin is sometimes presented in male, sometimes in
female form: pictures and statues, in both forms, can be found in Chinese and Thai
temples all over Thailand.
The temple at Samut Sakhon has a particularly beautiful inner
shrine, often visited by couples who have yet to conceive their
On the other side of the road from the Kuan Yin shrine is Wat Chong
Lom, a temple from the Ayutthaya period, though much modernised. If you walk through the temple grounds,
you will find a very pleasant restaurant, Krua Chong Lom (Chong Lom
Kitchen) on the banks of the Tha Chin river. Seafood here is excellent
and inexpensive, the setting very pleasing.
Rather than take a samlor back to the ferry, I found it pleasant to walk back to
town along the river.
Mae Khlong Railway
On the west bank of the Tha Chin river is Bahn Laem Railway Station and the Mae Khlong section of the
railway. Either take a ferry from the pier near the market to Wat Laem Suwannaram which is on the river next to the station, or
take the more frequent ferry directly across to the west bank. Walk out of the ferry terminal and turn right. The station is
about 300 meters away.
Bahn Laem Station with the temple in the background
Trains to Samut Songkram run four times a day in each direction: according to timetables published
01-07-2002, departure times are 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. Phone No. for
Mae Khlong station (Samut Songkram) is 03-471-1906.
If you miss your
train, there are also frequent bus services between Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkram, and between
Samut Songkram (in front of the central market) and Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal.
There is a much fuller account of this journey, together with many good photos, on
by Graham Rogers. The picture below, courtesy
of Graham, is of the Market at Mae Khlong with the track running through it - remarkably similar to the
end-of-line Market at Mahachai.
Interactive Map of Samut Songkhram
A. Railway Station
B. Wat Phet Samut
Samut Songkhram, known locally as "Mae Khlong", is a fishing port at the mouth of the Mae Khlong River. Much
of the land between Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram is salt marsh, as can be seen from the railway, and the production of salt is an important
The main attractions of the town are the fresh seafood restaurants, the Mae Khlong River and
Wat Phet Samut Worawiharn..
Wat Phet Samut Worawihan
This temple is located in the center of town by the river. It dates from the days of the Burmese wars
with Ayutthaya in the 18th Century, when villagers from Bahn Laem, a fishing village north east of
Petchaburi, fled from the invaders and set up a new village (also called Bahn Laem) on the
site of modern Samut Songkhram. They renovated an existing temple (Wat Sri Champa) and gave it the name
Wat Bahn Laem.
It is said that the standing Buddha image Luang Pho Bahn Laem, which resides in the temple, was recovered in fishermen's nets
along with a seated Buddha image. Unfortunately the alms bowl originally carried by the figure was never recovered and so
has been replaced by a blue glass bowl.
The temple was later given the status of Worawihan (a class of Royal Temple) and given its present
name of "Wat Phet Samut Worawihan" by the king.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
One reason for visiting Samut Sakhon is its proximity to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. This
is the most famous floating market in Thailand, but it is quite far from Bangkok and
the market starts around 6.00 a.m. (the best time to see it). One way to visit the market
is to overnight in Samut Songkhram and then catch a bus or boat (from in front of Wat Phet Samut Worawiharn)
to the market early morning. There is also a small hotel, the Noknoi, in Damnoen Saduak itself, not
far from Thanarat Bridge.