Oh for “smellavision”, or “scratch-n-sniff” internet …that’s what you need for a post about Talat Pak Klong, or the Pak Klong Market, otherwise known as the flower or orchid market. A long time ago this area was a floating market, then a fish market, and now a flower and vegetable market. There are two market halls that are (very slowly) being renovated but for now business is mainly conducted on the streets and footpaths …..as it usually is in Thailand anyway !
The guidebooks still tell you that you have to come in the middle of the night to see it at it’s busiest, but actually nowadays there is plenty of action happening in the late afternoon.
That’s 10 baht, or around 35 cents, for a bunch of orchids, perhaps 5 or 6 flower spikes.
How do the growers make any money ? By selling thousands of them every day. Some are sold as religious offerings, destined for the thousands of shrines around Bangkok and nearby, others are just for decoration at home.
And then there are the marigolds….
There must be millions of marigold blooms used every day in Thailand, to be made into garlands draped over countless shrines throughout the country. At the Erawan shrine alone the attendants are constantly removing garlands to make way for more ( the act of offering is more important than the actual garland), so hundreds end up in the rubbish bins every day there alone.
The marigolds are delivered by the truckload, some to be trimmed and strung together there at the market, others on sold to vendors who make the garlands themselves, and any rejects are shredded into individual petals to be strewn about at weddings and ceremonies.
But the pervasive smell is the scent of jasmine, an essential part of the smaller garlands, or Phuang Malai. I’m told that the patterns are strictly controlled, you do not just string a few jasmine flowers together and then add a marigold or whatever takes your fancy at the time.
It’s mostly a woman’s job, but I did see a couple of older men making garlands too. But I only saw younger guys making the traditional Banana leaf and flower arrangements ( bay sri ? something like that, LOL). Many drivers like to hang one of these garlands from the rear view mirror for luck before a long drive, so you often see vendors at major intersections selling these.
I think 20 baht (about 65 cents) is the going price ….a cheap way of ensuring a safe journey?
There are also more conventional florist shops selling arrangements of lilies, heliconias, roses carnations, and much, much more.
And even a couple of shops selling artificial flowers, of silk and plastic (albeit high quality plastic!).
Most of the stock is on the footpath not in the shops though, so making progress can be slow at times.
And you will often have to give way to a trolley load of flowers being delivered to one of the stalls or shops. This is a working market after all, so while sightseers and photographers are welcome they should remember their place in the scheme of things.
But this is not a place to rush around in anyway ! Slow down, enjoy the sights and smells. One of the buildings, and a couple of the side streets are the territory of fruit and vegetable sellers. Here you will find all sorts of weird and wonderful vegetables, even though I am a former chef I have absolutely no idea what many of them are or how you cook them.
Many of the stalls specialise in just one product, such as the guy who just sold garlic. But you could choose from several varieties, or from whole clumps or individual cloves, even ready peeled.
And another stall just sold peppers …boring old capsicums to the hottest prik ki noo (mouse shit chillis), chillis in every colour and size.
Some more photos, then some practical stuff about how to get there :
The practical stuff:
The easiest way to get to the Pak Klong Market is by ordinary river ferry, getting off at the Memorial Bridge pier (N6). From the pier turn left, then take the first right and you will see the first stalls right in front of you. Take the next left, and just wander up and down the side streets. If you go in the late afternoon around 3.30pm you would have a couple of hours to look around before before the last ferry at around 6.00pm, but if you do miss the last boat it is an easy walk to the piers near Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace where you can catch the “tourist boat” up until around 9.00pm (it does not stop at Memorial Bridge). Or you could walk around 1km the other way into Chinatown and then grab a taxi, or catch the MRT subway until midnight
(I wish I had known how to do Google Maps during my round Oz road trip!)