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Published on Thursday, 06 September 2012 13:31 Written by Lin Lin Khaing
During our exciting study tour to the Nation Multimedia Group in Bangkok -- a signed-partner of the Eleven Media Group in Myanmar -- we visited Maeklong market in Samut Songkhram Providence to cover our first narrative story in Thailand. We were accompanied by amicable and charming Ms. Ina Parlina, a reporter from the Jakarta Post, attached with Asia News Network (ANN).
The outing started at 6 a.m. on a beautiful morning, and we first took the bus to a BTS station. Then, we stepped on the BTS on two different lines and arrived at Wongwian Yai. From there, we took the train to Maharchai. Seeing the clean and neat condition of the seats on the train, it reminded me of the circular railway back in our country that still lack a proper system.
The ticket was 10 bahts (equivalent to 300 Myanmar kyats) for each passenger; therefore it is costlier here than in Myanmar.
The wide area of land seen on the way to Maharchai is not that different from the scenes in Myanmar. The location of the houses which are too close to the rail tracks, dump sites, and small stalls on the platforms of the train stations were the same like in Myanmar.
After arriving at the Maharchai train station, we crossed the river by boat. My mind rushed to the Myanmar migrant workers living in Mahachai, but I pushed my thoughts aside as our main destination still lay ahead. I noted to myself to come back to Mahachai at another time.
Crabs, prawns, various kinds of fish, and dried shrimps were seen selling around the Mahachai train station. To my amazement, I saw that the prices were much cheaper than in Myanmar. I can’t help but feel sad, thinking about the hardship of our Myanmar migrant workers employed in business of catching fish.
On the way to another train station after crossing the river, I felt a lump inside my heart when I saw a sign board written in Myanmar language, recruiting workers to peel crab shells. How many Myanmar citizens are doing downtrodden jobs like this? Why the recruitment was written in Myanmar? How many Myanmar are already working here? These unresolved questions kept popping up in my head.
From the Ban Laem Station, we jumped on the train again to the Maeklong Station to see the market scene. I noticed that most of the passengers on the train were tourists rather than Thai nationals. The landscape seen from the panoramic window on the way was similar to the countryside seen on various regions of Myanmar. I saw many thick tall grasses and wide open fields. I read on the internet that there are many salt farms in this area so I assumed that those fields I saw were salt farms. I also saw a few cold storage factories and seeing the Myanmar name Ma Pan Aye on the wall of a factory made me pathetic.
As the train got nearer to the Maeklong train station, the passengers on the train started to stir and prepare their cameras. A moment later, the train started passing through the market and I saw from the train window many foreigners near the rail tracts were squeezing around on the narrow space between the stalls and taking photos of the passing train.
When the train stopped at the station, we got off and look around the stalls on the train tracks. A wide variety of produce were sold mostly on trays near the tracks. Chicken, pork, prawns, crabs, cuttlefish, and various types of fishes were seen along with cabbage, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and other vegetables at the market. I also saw a few souvenir shops and clothes stores.
The selling trays were placed near the rail tracks and the shop vendors pulled back the canopy and the merchandise at the signal of the approaching train. Once the train passes by, the sunshade and produce are pushed to the fore to their original places beside the tracks and everything goes back to normal. As the train only passes through three or four times a day, the shopkeepers can mind their own business peacefully.
It is for this reason that tourists landed at the market just to watch in amazement at the temporary busy lives of the vendor as they hurry to get off the tracks before the train approach.
The Maeklong scene made me feel uncomfortable when my mind flashes back to the countryside of Myanmar. I imagine the possible reactions of the tourists if they were to see the vendors rushing inside the trains, jumping off while the trains were still moving, and young peddlers jostling around the train windows during the short stops at the stations in Myanmar. At the same time, my heart felt heavy when I thought about the street vendors being arrested for selling assorted items on the restricted areas back in Yangon.
During the sojourn in Bangkok for media coverage, my first experience at the Maeklong market has left me with lastingly imprint in my mind with motley assortment of questions about my country.