8 Sep 2013

Tracks and water: faces of 2 markets

The plan today was to visit a couple of popular markets in the outskirts of Bangkok, both reknown for different reasons but close to each other. I had never been to any of both so the level of anticipation was high. We took an early van from Victory Monument and, in roughly an hour and a half, we arrived at our first destination: Maeklong Train Market.

The tracks, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Ready for work, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
We had heard and even seen glimpses of this market in internet before (sights of a slow-advancing train passing through a narrow road packed with fruits and goods on the ground on both sides of the rails, at minimum distance from the old, moving carriages full of curious people) but didn't really know what to expect from it. Therefore we decided to reach early so we could have time to walk and explore the market in its natural state before the train arrived.

Preparations, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Deals, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
While there is no train passing (which happens a few times per day), nothing distinguishes this market from any other around the country (and there are plenty): narrow alleyways packed with small stalls selling a wide variety of products, from food to spices to clothes to handicrafts; thick umbrellas protecting the goods and customers from the sun, thus giving the whole area a dark, gloomy atmosphere where ocassional rays of sun break through the gaps creating puddles of bright light; numerous people coming and going, bargaining and offering, working or dozing, cleanning or snapping pictures (there are quite a few tourists here, though they are not that many and dont really disrupt the normal life of the market at all).

A moment of tranquility, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The wait, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Family business, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
But when the loud siren sounds, warning about the impending visit, it all suddenly changes; in a matter of seconds, every single umbrella gets moved away, all the trays that were lying on the floor are removed, and the narrow alley becomes all of a sudden a bright, clear road pierced by a straight railtrack from beginning to end. And mere seconds later, a big, rusty locomotive appears at the far edge, advancing slowly towards the station, that awaits on the back of the market. It all feels like a syncronised dance, where all the participants know the measures and timing perfectly and perform their individual tasks accordingly with total precision, the bottom of the carriages barely avoiding the underlying goods, as the vendors simply await patiently a couple of minutes of break.

Generations, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
2 minutes to read, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
But once the train has passed, the closed market returns to life again, reopening its petals as a flower that searches for the sun; movement returns, and so the glances, words, hands and feet resume their usual business, bringing back the color and the buzz.

A maze with many exits, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Sunbathing, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
When we were ready to leave Maeklong to continue our trip, a sudden cloud opened its skirt shamelessly, and a heavy downpour battered the city. We found refuge in a Chinese temple that happened to be nearby, and patiently waited for the sky to end its diatribe, which, fortunately, didn't last that long.

Invisible rain, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
After the rain, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The second market in our plan is just a few kilometers away and can be easily recahed by a minibus (locally known as songteo); for a ridiculous fee you will be in Amphawa Floating Market in a matter of minutes. There are many floating markets in Thailand, and they are always part of tourist's must-see visits at one point or another in their trips around the country, but this is the first one I visit so I cannot compare it to other ones. I will just share here my comments on this one.

Ochres and greys, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Parking area, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Amphawa Floating Market is probably not the most authentic or original of thailand's floating markets, because its popularity and proximity to Bangkok has led to it being overly populated by tourists (both local and international) and that has turned it into a touristic spot, full of souvenir shops and coffee places, beautiful resorts and guided tours; however, and despite the abundance of tourism, the market remains an interesting place full of charm and, most importantly, nice views and food.

Wood romance, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
The art of smiling, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Of meat and squid, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
Amphawa spreads along a canal, and you can either walk along the banks by foot, checking all the small shops that stack up on both sides, or you can rent a boat and sail down the stream, enjoying the views from the water and seeing how the vendors and residents go on with their routines.

Repair service, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
One square meter, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
However, after all we have walked and smelled, seen and tasted, the most precious thing these two markets have offered me has been the loveliness of their people. For me, what undoubtedly represents the true beauty of this country is a couple of bright, wide eyes; a humble yet welcoming smile; a deep, proud wrinkle. Nothing gets much more beautiful than that, and I found lots of them today.

Deserved rest, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm 
Elegant beauty, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm


  1. Hola Gonzalo soy Pedro, el padre de tus amigas Laura y Noelia de Barcelona.
    Como amante de la fotografía he visto tus fotos de los mercados de Bangkok y me parecen muy buenas.
    Me gusta como tratas la luz natural y como das protagonismo al personaje del resto del resto de la escena utilizando solo un pequeño desenfoque que sin ser retrato no molesta a la vista.
    Sigue asi y prueba con paisaje/naturaleza quetiene muchas posibilidades y por esa zona tiene que haber mucho donde elegir.
    A partir de ahora seguiré lo que cuelgues en tu blog.
    Un saludo.

  2. ¡Hola Pedro!
    Muchas gracias por tus comentarios y consejos, siempre es de agrado recibir ánimos de alguien con tanta experiencia como tú. Casualmente mi próxima entrada serán paisajes y extensos campos de arroz en el este de Tailandia, a ver qué te parece. Cualquier otro consejo será más que bienvenido.
    ¡Saludos y recuerdos a la familia!

  3. Pictures and commentary both beautifully produced.....