Words by Jane Hodges Photography by Maree Azzopardi
After a late night feast in Bangkok’s Chinatown, we came across Chak Phet Rd and its surrounding streets, which are home to Pak Khlong Talat (canal mouth market), a fresh produce market and also the cities largest and most vibrant flower market.
Like all 24-hour markets, visiting late at night or in the wee morning hours is best. There are fewer people – usually no tourists – and most deliveries (by boat and truck) happen between midnight and 4am, so the stalls are at their brightest, most fragrant and bulging best.
Bunches, bouquets, wreaths and garlands were crammed into every inch of space. Men hefted armfuls of blooms onto trolleys and jostled down narrow alleys. Busy hands were hard at work. The many Thai and Chinese festivals and religious celebration days ensure intricate malais (garlands) and dok mai (exquisite assorted arrangements) are constantly being made and bought. Mostly women vendors sat and sewed or threaded petals and whole blooms like seamstresses constructing couture – lotus, roses, jasmine, marigolds, lilies, orchids – an overwhelming riot of colour and mélange of scents.
Day and night cars brave the mad traffic to stop in front of their favourite stall – someone jumps out and the car speeds off to do the block or the driver yells an order and idles amid honks from the line-up behind, until their flowers are delivered, money changes hands and the traffic flows once more. The market is busiest pre-dawn and early evening, but interesting whenever you go.
While you’re there: walk through the fresh produce market area which is also a trip of sights, sounds and smells not to be missed!
Getting there: Take a tuk tuk through Bangkok traffic (if it’s not gridlock hour) and ask to be dropped off in the heart of Th Tri Phet ; or to avoid the traffic, take to the river on the Chao Phraya River Express ferry and alight at Rachini ferry stop; walk across a small bridge and turn left and you’re in the midst of 24/7 flower heaven.
More flower power: head to Bangkok’s Museum of Floral Culture www.floralmuseum.com for a guided tour to learn about the traditional use of blooms in Thai celebrations and religious rituals (open Tues-Sun); or on the second Saturday of the month, take a hands-on flower artistry workshop to learn how to make a Thai floral tassel or a garland with renown Thai flower master Sakul Intakul.