While there are undoubtedly numerous ways to explore Bangkok and its surroundings, traveling by WWII-era diesel engine train is one of the most unusual excursions you’ve probably never taken into account. Often when any individuals hear about taking a trip on an old train that hasn’t gotten much attention since the arrival of the BTS, they roll their eyes and ask: “a train? Really?” with utter skepticism…
And for some… a spark of excitement.
But what makes it worthwhile? today, we’re going to take you on an adventure full of twists and turns… the old-fashioned way.
While the ‘traditional’ World War II, 118-year-old diesel-engine trains (and railways) are being replaced by modern ones such as the BTS Skytrain, apparently there are still some left for those seeking an old-world Bangkok experience to try out, and one of the closest and most interesting routes worth exploring is the “Wongwian-Yai -> Maha Chai” route. And, sure enough, it’s a lot of fun.
Getting to the Wongwian Yai railway station is simple and straightforward, but you must first distinguish it from the regular Wongwian Yai BTS station, which often confuses most people, especially taxi drivers who rarely drop off passengers there. When you realize that the Wongwian Yai BTS station is not the same as the Wongwian Yai Railway station, you’re ready for the journey.
The quickest way to get to Wongwian Yai railway station is to take the BTS subway to Wongwian Yai station (duh) and then walk a short distance to the railway station or take a taxi if you’re not too far away. When you arrive at the station, look for the ticket counter near the waiting benches.
It is a good idea to take any available information leaflet with you to study the train schedule before purchasing the ticket. However, for those who are new to this, the first departure of the day is usually at 05:30 Hrs, and the last departure is at 20:10 Hrs (Wongwian Yai -> Maha Chai) and 04:30 – 19:00 Hrs from Maha Chai -> Wongwian Yai.
After you’ve recovered from a small surprise, realizing that the full one-hour ticket fee is only 10 Baht (0.26 USD) you may’ve realized that you’ve come a bit too early or a little too late since the last departure, and have about 20-30 minutes to wander around before the next train comes. The best activity to do while waiting is to explore the area and meeting the locals nearby… or find something to satisfy a crave, and there isn’t any better place than the Wongwian Yai Market across the street… as you can find almost anything you need in a fresh market, whether it’s a quick bite to eat or a crispy pork dish, they’ve got you covered. However, keep in mind that this is only the start of a long journey; so make sure to leave some room in your stomach for more to come.
Now that you’ve returned to the train station and are about to board the train, one of the most essential but unspoken rules is to never… ever reach any of your body parts out the train window even if it looks safe to do so. Once you board the 118-year-old diesel train, you’ll notice that it doesn’t appear to be that “old” Despite the fact that the train has clearly shown signs of wear, such as scratches, marks, and some tears here and there, the clean and well-maintained properties completely make up the whole and instead create a Wabi-Sabi vibe, which is rather a sight to be admired.
Even though the train from Wongwian Yai takes about an hour to reach the end of the line at Maha Chai railway station, the best part begins when the train starts moving. What you’ll observe is the way of life of those who have made the railway a part of their routine, such as teachers and students who get off at Wat Sing school, fishermen who travel between Bangkok and Samut Prakarn, and the ordinary passenger. A ticket collector will be strolling back and forth with a ticket puncher on the route to the next stop to check your ticket. If you board the train in a hurry and don’t have time to buy a ticket at the counter, this is another opportunity to do so.
Once you arrive at Maha Chai, the first thing you should do after getting off the train is tour the market, which is well-known for providing fresh and dried seafood. After passing through the market, you’ll see that there are several seafood eateries ready for you to try. Any of them is as good as the one next to it, but as of today, we’re going even farther than the Maha Chai market.
Next to the Maha Chai Market is a dock that provides transportation by boat to the other side of the river: “Tha Chalom,” a Samut Sakhon sub-district that features cultural and religious monuments like as temples, cathedrals, and shrines that have been packed into one tiny region.
After disembarking and strolling towards the exit, you’ll find a small group of “Trikers,” a tricycle tour service provided by retired yet strong locals who are more than eager to take you on a tour of the sub-district for only 100 baht per hour. Our advice is to try it out because it is faster to move about the region and, more importantly, they will point out all the interesting things, such as unique paintings on each manhole, and you would have missed such things if you opted to explore it on your own.
Now that you’ve settled on your choice of excursion, it’s time to look at the sights. The street artworks done by youngsters that nearly hide in plain sight, the historical significance, and the super-friendly people are the main draws here.
To make it short, a quick tour of the region should take at least one and a half hours if you’re in a hurry, and longer if you enjoy the scenery. If you wish to stay overnight, there are accommodations such as a motel nearby, and no shortage of nice looking cafés such as “ED1990” or “Rublom Café and Bar” for those who love café hopping as well. However, we decided to make the most of everything in one day and perhaps return for more.
Stay tuned for more interesting content.