Six times a day, the ritual is repeated at the famous Maeklong Railway Market, popular with locals and foreign tourists.
Far from being the only one in Thailand, this market has nevertheless become one of the most popular, with hundreds of small traders set up on a 500-meter stretch, selling everything from fresh produce to clothes to souvenirs.
“Even though it looks risky and dangerous, it is not dangerous at all,” said Samorn Armasiri, fruit and vegetable vendors.
Her stall has been owned by her family since the 1970s, and she says she has never witnessed an accident.
“When the train approaches, the driver sounds the horn and we put away all our things. Everyone knows the procedure well,” she says.
– The awnings fold up and the stalls move aside –
Ingeniously mounted on wheels, the stalls slide on either side of the rails and the wagons literally pass over the bags of lettuce, ginger or peppers carefully arranged near the track.
Having become over time one of the most Instagrammed places in the region, the market was hard hit by the pandemic and the total disappearance of international tourists for almost two years.
Now that the kingdom has lifted all Covid-related entry restrictions, tourism has picked up again.
“It was crazy and hectic,” Ella Mc Donald, an Australian marveling at the organized chaos, told AFP.
“Seeing such a big train pass through such a small space is a unique experience. I have never seen anything like it anywhere in the world”.
For market traders, the return of tourists is a boon, even if it is still timid, especially because the Chinese still cannot leave their country.
“During Covid, I barely earned enough to pay my staff. I was selling 10 fish a day,” Somporn Thathom, who has been running his stall since 1988, told AFP.
“I used up all my savings…and had to borrow money from the bank.”
The authenticity of the market is what makes it successful, says Charoen Charoenpun, Maeklong’s station master.
“It’s not a manufactured product. It’s not built for tourists,” he said.
“Tourists, when they come, can see the tradition and culture of the local people in the Samut Songkhram area.”
“My favorite thing was seeing the (market vendors) packing up as soon as the train passed,” said 8-year-old William, captivated by the amazing sight.