The coastal town of Mahachai and the fishing port of Samut Songkhram are a short train ride from Bangkok, but you’ll feel like you are a world away. One unique feature of Mahachai’s train station is that it co-exists with the city’s fresh market as if they grew up intertwined with each other. In fact, the two historical hubs of Mahachai do in fact overlap to the point where the umbrella stands must be moved when the morning train rolls in. You can look for videos on utube.com which document this fascinating event. Another name for this market is talad lom hoop, or “closing umbrella market.”
One must arrive at the prefect time to see the market vendors quickly gathering their waves and moving their posessions out of the way of the train coming on the train tracks. Once the train has passed, the vendors returned to their previous positions as this is a daily routine for them. This is another fine example of how Thais like to cram together in small spaces and adapt to make the situation work. Let’s not consider the safety issues of the vendors, market goers and lots of miscellaneous stuff being so close to the train tracks as the train approaches.
Tuk-tuk driving out of the fish market.
We arrived in Mahachai around lunch time and had missed all the umbrella moving that day, but we did get to see the fresh market filled with newly caught saltwater fish, shellfish and freshwater fish. There were also plenty of squid, shrimp and prawn. I even caught glimpses of toads and turtles that some people do eat. We purchased some white sea bass and some fish I know only by their Thai names: “plaa krabok,” “plaa salit,” and “plaa lak krew.” Mostly we fried the fish and ate them with rice and a fish sauce, lemon and chili dipping sauce called “nam prik nam plaa.” But, my dad also used the “plaa krabok” to make a version of the popular tom yum soup. All of the fish was super fresh and none of the seafood that you can buy in Bangkok is quite as sweet or as cheap.
Plaa salit with eggs
Before we left the market, we got a recommendation for a local restaurant from a fish vendor. She said that the restaurant made good spicy dishes with an extreme taste. We wanted to eat some fresh seafood while we were in Samut Songkram and we enjoyed white sea bass steamed with lemon, three flavored fried battered shrimp and fried “plaa sai,” or sand fish. All of it was fresh and yummy, although the restaurant lacked good service.