The Maeklong Train Line: a glimpse into ordinary Thailand
This month the day out from Pattaya and into Bangkok begins on the western side of the Chao Phraya River, in the area known as Thonburi. Briefly the capital of Thailand (or Siam as it was then), it’s now easier to get into Thonburi than ever before with a BTS station at Wong Wian Yai.
Nearby is the first of two branches of the Maeklong train line. Also called Wong Wian Yai, it began as a private railway line designed to bring fish and other sea produce from the coastal provinces of Samut Sakhon, located on the Tha Chin River (a branch of the mighty Chao Phraya), and Samut Songkhram into the city of Bangkok for sale in the markets.
As a private rail link it was not connected to any of the main State Railways of Thailand (SRT) public lines. Nowadays it is not owned or run privately but has been incorporated into the SRT setup.
As mentioned above, the Maeklong Line is divided into two branches. The first, from Wong Wian Yai, goes through nine stations to Phrom Dan, which is the last official station on the line that is actually still in Bangkok.
It then enters what is now the province of Samut Sakhon and continues for another six stations until it terminates at Mahachai.
The Wong Wian Yai train station is on Taksin Road near a roundabout where a monument to King Taksin Monument is located.
The commuter train is clean and functional and a trip on it gives a glimpse of life in an area of Bangkok very few foreigners tend to explore. OK, there’s nothing especial or outstanding, but it does offer visions of canals, traditional wooden homes, quaint railway stations and the nuclear communities which make up the fabric of the thriving metropolis.
If you want continue on past Mahachai station, you’ll have to board a ferry and take it across the Tha Chin River and then take the second branch of the train line from the close-at-hand Bang Laem station. This train terminates at Maeklong station in Samut Songkhram province.
If time and the desire permits, then a wander around the port area of Samut Songkhram is also worth the effort. Here you will see you are right on the Gulf of Thailand and if you are a seafood aficionado then this is likely to be where your last fish dinner was originally landed.
A trip on the Maeklong line is a nice, relaxed way to spend a lazy day in Bangkok and see how the ‘other half’ live.