Sitting on flat land in the Gulf of Thailand’s delta, Samut Sakhon is rich with fresh seafood, mangrove forests and salt farms.
Samut Sakhon is an edgy small town on the edge of Bangkok, about 30 kilometres to the southwest. Tourists mostly skip it because they think it’s too close to Bangkok to be worth a trip. It’s like a borough of the metropolis, to be exact. Samut Sakhon is most famous for its fresh seafood and offers some of the best deals you will find. Its coastline is over 40 kilometres long and fishing is its primary industry.
Samut Sakhon history dates back to the Ayudhaya era around 500 years ago when it was known as “Sakhon Buri.” The first settlers were Chinese traders on a junk boat. The town is situated on the outer banks of the “Tha Chin” river, meaning “Chinese Pier.” The name was later changed to “Mahachai” after the Mahachai canal connecting the great Chao Phraya River to the east was dug.
The current name of “Samut Sakhon” was given by King Rama IV, but both locals and visitors still prefer to call it Mahachai. There is an old fort with an ancient canon built in the King Rama III period left as evidence of its former role as a protector near the main pier.
There is a smaller version of “Collapsing Umbrella Market” (the main one is in the town of Samut Songkram 40 kilometres west). The morning market crawls close to the train track, with some shops sitting right on it. Every time a train rolls in or out of the terminal, the shop owners have to remove everything and collapse their umbrellas out of the way, hence the name Collapsing Umbrella Market.
There are about 6,000 factories in the province, so there are a lot of immigrant worker communities, mostly from Myanmar, to explore. The Sukhaphiban Alley along the Mahachai canal is where things happen. The seafood market, train terminal and collapsing market are all here.
Everything here evolves around the fishing industry. The area is full of bustling fisherman piers, shipyards and repair, marine custom, sea produce factories. Samut Sakhon is not a touristy seaside. It’s more for those who’d like to see the real daily life in a fisherman’s town.
For a complete nostalgia experience, take the one-hour train from Bangkok’s Wong Wien Yai station to Mahachai. Cyclers can carry on their personal wheels for further exploration, across the river on the ferry to Tha Chalom old Chinese settlement or all the way down the shore of the Gulf of Thailand.
COVER PHOTO: Docking boats across the Mahachai pier.