Get off the tour and get lost!
We have always had the travel bug! We went to China in 2016 on an organized tour. Every aspect was planned: hotels, outings, and meals. Every moment was planned for us to the last detail. On the second day, we broke free and got off the bus, and inevitably, we got lost. With nothing more than the card from the hotel we were staying at as a back-up plan, we set out on our own. We had an amazing time! We found food and immersed ourselves in a world we had no idea existed. That small action changed our lives forever. We knew we could make our own way even if it was not always perfect, like when we went to the Maeklong Train Market in Thailand.
Now when we travel, we look at all of the travel brochures to find out what we should see in a given area. Then, we take it as a personal challenge to experience those items on our own.
Find out what the hot spots are then plan them out on your own!
Not too long ago, we were in Bangkok, and one of the things we wanted to do was to see the Maeklong Train Market. There are many ways to experience this. Many organized tours from any number of tour groups could have easily gotten there from any hotel in Bangkok. I love to master local transportation, and Bangkok is a big city with fantastic infrastructure. I did a bit of research and figured we could visit the market and see a bit of the city and make a cool day of it.
We arrived in Bangkok about 7:30 in the morning on the overnight train from Chaing Mai and into our hotel. Setting out on a day adventure, we needed breakfast first. I found a great place close to the one of the elevated train stations that would start us on our journey. After a great breakfast at TAZZiNA, we left to get a day transit pass on Bangkok’s BTS system that would take us to the first of three trains of the day.
How to get from Bangkok to the Maeklong Train Market for less than $5
Buy a day pass on Bangkoks BTS System. This is the most expensive part of the trip but you can use it to get all over Bangkok. It is good for unlimited trips on the elevated trains until midnight. You need to get on the Silom Line and get off at the WongWain Yai station.
A 3 minute walk will take to to the WongWian Railway station. Buy a ticket to get to Mahachai Station for 10 Baht. The train will take about an hour and leaves about every hour starting at 530 in the morning. Time table here.
After you arrive at Mahachai you will need to walk another 5 minutes to the ferry pier. It will cost 3 Baht to cross. This is a local crossing and you will get a few stares as not many tourists make this crossing. It is fun to watch the motorbikes ride onto the ferry. The crossing will only take a few minutes and will not leave until the ferry is full.
On the other side you will hang a left out of the terminal and walk about 5 minutes to the Ban Laem Railway Station. Another 10 Baht and you are on your way! This train only runs 4 times a day so plan it carefully! it leaves at: 07:30, 10:10, 13:30 and 16:40. This trip will take an hour and is pretty scenic as it trails across the countryside and through a couple sea salt farms before slowing down and going through the market!
15 minutes late!
Here is where “don’t be afraid to get lost” comes in. We got to the train station from the Skytrain 15 minutes too late! We missed the 12:15 train that would get us to the ferry in time to cross and make the 13:30 out of Ban Laem!
The whole goal was to actually ride the train that went through the market and see it from inside the train. We wanted to see more than just the train coming through the market. By missing the train, seeing the market from the train AND watching the train come through while at the market was in jeopardy. Then next train would not be along for another two hours and then we would only make the last train into Maeklong. We could wait for the next train and see the market from the train, but we wouldn’t be able to see the train come through the market while actually being in the market. What were we to do? We had to catch that train to make it to the ferry that would take us to the next train that would take us through the market.
There is always an alternative mode of transportation!
We quickly ordered a Grab car to take us to the ferry. It cost us a bit more, but were were back on schedule! There is always an alternative; you just need to think outside of the box and make it happen. The grab was much faster than the train we missed so we were now ahead of schedule.
After crossing the ferry and a short wait, we boarded the older commuter train. Colorful plastic seats and oscillating fans outfitted the train. The windows were open and a nice warm breeze flowed through the cars. The train made its way across the Thai countryside and stopped several times for people to get on and off. There may have been 20 people on the whole train over the hour long trip.
As the ride was coming to an end and the final stop of the market approached, the conductor motioned us to follow him. He must have seen us taking pictures and video on the way and he had a surprise for us. Maybe it was that we were the only Westerners on this commuter train, but he grabbed us and took us to the back of the train. Like, the very back! He took me to a compartment meant for just him and pointed to a pedal on the floor, joking not to push it!
I was at the very back of the train and privy to a view that not many get to enjoy. As we went through the market, I was able to video the market come back to life as we passed! It was incredible! See it here!
We made it!
After arriving and making our way through the crowd we just filmed, we walked around exploring the market. We found our way to an unnamed place that would served us a beer outside of Thailand’s liquor laws. (shhhh… they can only serve liquorbetween 11am -2pm and 5pm to midnight) While we were sitting there enjoying a cold beer, the owner told us about an alternative way back 81 kilometers to Bangkok. We decided that the minivan and the 100 Baht ($3) per person was better. It allowed us to watch the train that were were planning to ride as it made its way through the market. It was also more comfortable than the plastic seats!
Sitting there with no stress and a cold beer, we watched an almost empty market as the last train of the day made its way through the market. After capturing even more video and a few pictures we made our way to the minivan and back to Bangkok.
A day tour that would have cost over $30 and we did for less than half. Our day included breakfast, beers, and did not have an over-scheduled itinerary. We were able to do do it because we were not afraid to get lost. In the end, we knew we would end up back at our hotel. We saw some amazing countryside, interacted with locals, and had an experience we created on our own!
Don’t be afraid to get lost and have a great experience off the beaten path of a “normal” tour!