Flowers are big business in Thailand. We visited the Pak Khlong Talat Flower market several times and have seen something new and interesting each time. The Pak Khlong Talat flower market is the biggest in Thailand and may be the largest open air flower market in the world. The market is open for business 7 X 24. The busiest time to visit is midnight and six AM.
We’ve visited at both 3PM and 9PM. I think the market was busier with “workers” during the daylight hours and busier with “tourists” at night. In either case, it was quite busy both times we wandered around in the market.
Flower markets are (literally) all over the place in Bangkok. It’s difficult to be in any kind of close proximity of a popular Wat without there being a multitude of flower vendors nearby. The flower vendors have purchased their flowers (to sell to you!) from a flower market.
These are just a few examples of flowers that we’ve seen while we’ve been out and about in Bangkok. There’s a shrine on pretty much every corner. Some are quite large, some are small. All shrines require flowers. So, you buy the flowers from a street side vendor, who purchased them from a flower market supplier, who purchased them from a flower grower. There may be an additional few buyers and sellers in there, but I think you get the general idea.
So, it all goes back to the flower market. We initially visited the market during our “Bangkok by night” tour. The market was, as is Bangkok, a tad bit overwhelming to my senses of sight, sound and smell.
Arriving during the day, sans tour group, allowed us to take our time and not be rushed following a tour guide and tour mates. The initial question when we arrived at the market was “which market”?
One market was located on the north side of the road and another market on the south side of the road. We walked into the Yodpiman section since that was the side of the street where we were standing. I don’t know that there’s really that big a difference between the two sides of the road to the casual tourist.
So into the market we went. The market seems chaotic and crazy. People charging up and down the aisles like a life is on the line. Bored employees playing on their phones, people sleeping in chairs, dogs sleeping on the ground. People buying and selling bunches of flowers, flower petals, flower bouquets, vegetables and food.
To the person who works in the market, it’s just their normal working environment. To us, it was craziness. We laughed at the tourists who had been suckered into taking a bike tour of the market.
Adding bicycles to a chaotic environment seems foolish at best. The tourists/suckers looked miserable. Hopefully their time in the market was short lived and they were able to pedal away quickly.
It seems logical (to me!) to view the flower aspect the market as a gigantic manufacturing conveyor belt. I’ll break it down into three stages. (Keep in mind I may be full of beans. I’m just guessing.)
Stage 1: Loose flowers
There are stacks and stacks and piles and piles of loose flowers.
It seemed as if there wasn’t rhyme or reason to the layout of the market in relationship to the locations of the loose petal suppliers and the other suppliers. There must be some sort of logic to it though…
Stage 2: Garland creation from loose flower petals
During the day we observed many garlands being assembled, both inside the market and outside the market on the street. I want to say, but I’m not positive, that there was less assembly occurring at night when we visited…but I could be absolutely incorrect.
An assumption, which may be completely incorrect, is that the garland assemblers purchased the loose flowers from the other suppliers at the market. It seems logical, so my assumption may be completely incorrect.
Pausing for a commercial break
Thinking of the flower market as “just a flower market” would be incorrect. There’s a plethora of items that have nothing to do with flowers, hiding in plain sight around every corner.
Stage 3: The sale of assembled garlands
Just as there are flower petals (Stage 1), and flower arrangements (Stage 2) there are also garlands that have already been assembled and are ready to be sold.
Again the ice on the flowers reminded me of the Tsujiki fish market. Swap flowers for fish and you have the correct mental picture. Minus the fishy smell…and slick concrete…
If you’re willing to walk deeper into the market the prices decrease. It’s all about location.
I must admit that by the time we got to the rear of the market I just wanted “OUT” of the market. It was (yet again) sensory overload. There was so just much visual stimuli.
Could we have stayed longer than an hour? Sure. I liken the market to visiting a museum. I’m generally good for a few hours, but after a few hours I’m overloaded. I can continue to “see” things, but I’m past the super saturation point and no longer enjoy it as much as I did when I first walked into the museum. It was the same for the flower market. Less is definitely more.
So back out onto the street we went…and here’s what we saw!
Look at the size of bag of flowers being hoisted! There was one person on the street who hoisted the flowers up to the third floor window via a pulley system. Someone on the third floor pulled the bag of flowers through the window and sent the line back down to the street. We had an anxious moment or two as the bag of flowers were pulled/dragged across the power lines.
If you’ve read our blog for awhile you know my love of flowers…but at some point, the pictures need to end and I need to wrap up this blog post.
So, would we go to the Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market again? Absolutely. We may have spent a total of three hours across two different visits to the market. It’s free and it’s within a short walk from Wat Pho.
Remember to bring your camera!