Summary: We'll admit that iconic railway market, founded in 1901, is a bit overrun by tourists. That being said, it's still an interesting sight to see a train literally roll through the market and much of the market itself is still authentically local.
Maeklong Railway Market is an hour outside of Bangkok though depending on where you are staying in Bangkok, it could be a much longer journey. Our tour guide, Joy, and her driver, took us by private mini-van. Given the chaotic City streets and the busy market, we recommend using a tour guide. Joy was also helpful with getting us to the market at the right time to see the train come through.
The market itself sits on the actual tracks. To view the market goods, you walk down the railroad ties which are filled with both locals and tourists doing their shopping. Overhangs are mobile and as the train comes through, the vendors draw them back and pull up any goods sitting on the tracks - at the very last second! Many goods are strategically placed so that the train rides right over them, though when I saw the train come through, I thought for sure they would get squashed. It's a kick to see.
While there are many people there to warn you of the oncoming, slow-moving train, you should still remain alert and cautious. After all, a slow-moving train can still take you out, just the same. Apart from the danger of not paying appropriate attention, the market is very safe. There are plenty places to hop aside and wait for the train to pass. There are people riding the train as well but if you're there to get the market experience, you'll need to arrive on foot.
The Market. The more interesting part of the market was the actual market. It the largest fresh food and seafood market that we visited while in Thailand. While there were many tourists (like us), present, the market itself had stalls after stalls of fresh spices, vegetables, dried goods, meat, poultry and fish. One woman pulled live fish from a bucket and chopped them into packages right there next to the tracks. Another vendor offered what looked to be grilled frogs. We passed on the frogs but did enjoy some fresh coconut water from a coconut opened right before us.
Tip: If you are on the tracks, be prepared to move through the stalls. It reminded me of the passing lane in cars. There's room to stop and buy goods but you will want to place yourself close to the vendor.
Sweet Street Food. Outside the main railway market was a line of street food vendors. Joy, our tour guide, introduced us to two vendors (photos below). The first one was making a Thai coconut pudding called, "Khanom Krok." Here, the street vendor pours a marvelously decadent coconut mixture into a hot plate and then flips them like pancakes by hand. The other vendor made an equally delicious sweet treat of fried bananas called, "Kluay Kaek."