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The slow route to Samut Songkhram

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The most enjoyable way of travelling to Samut Songkhram is by train from Bangkok – a scenic, albeit rather convoluted, route that has three stages, involves going via Samut Sakhon and could take up to three hours. It’s a very unusual line, being single track and for much of its route literally squeezed in between homes, palms and mangroves, and, most memorably, between market stalls, so that at both the Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram termini the train really does chug to a standstill amid the trays of seafood.

Trains to Samut Sakhon leave approximately hourly from Bangkok’s Wongwian Yai station in southern Thonburi (which is within walking distance of Wongwian Yai Skytrain station), but for the fastest onward connections catch the 5.30am, 8.35am, 12.15pm or 3.25pm (1hr). The train pulls up right inside the wet market at Samut Sakhon, also known as Mahachai, where you need to take a ferry across the Maenam Tha Chin to get the connecting train from Ban Laem on the other bank. Once you’ve left the train, cross the track and continue in the same direction as the train was going, through a clothes market, until you emerge onto a shopping street. Cross the street to the five-storey, blue-painted Tarua Restaurant, right on the estuary, adjacent to the busy fishing port, where you’ll find two piers. Boats from both piers will get you across the river: those departing from the pier on the right of the restaurant are frequent but drop you directly across on the other bank, from where it’s a twenty-minute walk to Ban Laem station (turn right and walk upriver, past a Thai temple); boats from the pier on the left of the restaurant go direct to Ban Laem station (5min), but leave infrequently, being timed to coincide with the Ban Laem trains. There are only four trains a day in each direction from Ban Laem to Samut Songkhram at the end of the line (1hr), a journey through marshes, lagoons, prawn farms, salt flats and mangrove and palm growth. Once again, at Samut Songkhram, the station is literally enveloped by the town-centre market, with traders gathering up their goods and awnings from the trackside for the arrival and departure of the service.

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