I have never seen multi-coloured dried shrimp before
On Sunday, I caught the Maeklong Commuter Train down to Mahachai which is otherwise known as Samut Sakhon. It is only an hour away from Bangkok by train. But, unlike my home province of Samut Prakan, they didn’t seem to be so used to seeing foreigners. In fact, the whole day I didn’t see another “farang”. I have passed through Samut Sakhon a few times on my way to the beach resorts of Cha-am and Hua Hin but I have never stopped. From the main highway I could see many big fishing boats as we drove over the Tha Chin river. I had always meant to stop to take a closer look but I never did. So, I was really pleased to have a two hour stopover here on Sunday while I was waiting for the next train.
You can exit the station either by walking to the front of the train and turning left through the main doors or walking to the back and turning right. In both cases walk down to the main road and turn right. On both sides of the road you will see many market vendors selling the usual fruit and vegetables but also a lot of seafood. After all, Samut Sakhon has one of the biggest seafood markets in the country. The smell of fish was very strong in the air and if you love seafood then you should come and visit here. There seemed to be quite a few shops selling dried fish. Some fish were really bizzare shapes. On the lefthand side of this road is the market and beyond that Mahachai Canal. If you want to see the fishermen offloading their catch then you need to come here early in the morning. The market starts to slow down by about 10 a.m.
The pier where you catch the boat to the other side
We decided to find out first where the pier was to catch the ferry boat to the other side of the river. As I mentioned before, there is no bridge so the first part of the line terminates here. You then have to cross the river to catch another train on the other side in order to continue your journey to Maeklong. We weren’t too sure which way to go but in the end it turned out to be quite easy. We just walked to the far end of this road. At the point where it did a sharp right turn there is the city pillar shrine and a Chinese shrine right in front. To our left was a clock tower and the pier for the ferry boats. This is the point where the Mahachai Canal meets the river. The sign said it would cost us 2 baht to cross to the other side. The were only two boats working but there didn’t seem to be much of a wait. By this time we still had over an hour before we had to catch the next train. We were planning on exploring the city pillar shrine and then walk back to explore the market and jetty more before having some noodles for lunch. However, we soon had a change of plan.
While we were walking around the jetty, a guy called out to me and asked if I wanted to rent a boat. I was interested but wasn’t too sure if we had enough time. I asked how much and he said 600 baht for the boat. The price was a little steep but it was a big boat and fuel expenses have gone up a lot recently. He said the trip would last about an hour and that he would take us out to the mouth of the river. I said that we had a train to catch on the other side at 1.30 p.m. He said we would have plenty of time. But, if we didn’t he would drop us off on the other side in order to save time. I still wasn’t sure whether to go or not. I do like boat trips but I also wanted to explore the market more. He saw my hesitation and quickly agreed to a cheaper price of 500 baht. So, I thought, why not? I can always drive back down here on another day to see the early morning market. So, we climbed aboard his boat and set off to explore the harbour.
Fishermen prepare their boats to go out to sea
It is the middle of summer at the moment and the temperatures are in the high 30’s. Luckily, the boat had a roof for us to shelter under and the natural air-conditioning contributed to a pleasant boat ride. It was already after noon and there wasn’t too much activity in the harbour. Most of the boats had returned earlier in the morning and had offloaded their catch. Now the fishermen were either sleeping or preparing their boats to go back out to sea. A few looked like they had only just got back and they were offloading barrels full of fish. Many of the fishing boats are multicoloured and if you look carefully at the front you will see a small shrine that is set up to keep them safe while at sea (see pictures at thaiphotoblogs.com). Our boatman took us all the way out to the river mouth where he turned around and took us back along the opposite bank. It wasn’t really an exciting boat trip. You may remember me writing about a similar boat trip to the river mouth at Bang Pakong to see the dolphins. Here there were only fishing boats. However, we had time to kill and it was a pleasant way to spend it.
About an hour later we arrived back at our starting point next to the clock tower. We were planning on eating here but decided that as we only had 20 minutes left we would catch the passenger ferry to the other side and eat there. We paid our 2 baht and boarded the ferry along with a few motorcycles. The trip across took less than five minutes. From the jetty we turned right and walked through a temple until we reach the train tracks. We could then see the station to our right. Plenty of time to buy a ticket and have a quick bowl of noodles.