The Thai capital of Bangkok is known for its stunning temples, modern shopping malls, delectable street food, and diverse attractions to suit all tastes. A place that’s full of energy and life, tuk tuks zip along the steamy streets and roadside vendors are intermingled with hurried business people, tourists from all walks of life, socialites, and monks clad in saffron robes.
The rich tapestry of life is especially noticeable in the city’s heaving markets, with clothing, lucky amulets, handicrafts, and almost anything you could ever want set out on stalls. Once you’ve exhausted the city’s famous markets, how about seeing somewhere completely different? Treat your senses and take a few hours to explore Bangkok’s colourful and busy flower market.
Flowers have great significance in Thailand, often given as offerings and loving gifts as well as being used as lucky charms and decoration. Flower garlands are particular prevalent; you’ll spot them in temples, hanging from taxi rearview mirrors, at shrines, at weddings, and used in a wide array of situations. Cars pull up at roadside sellers to purchase a fresh garland to hang in their vehicle to please Mae Yanang (the goddess of journeys) for luck and protection on Thailand’s chaotic roads. Floral arrangements, from the simple to the elaborate, are common in hotels and restaurants.
Pak Khlong Talad was the biggest flower market in Thailand. A hive of activity all around the clock, the large outdoor market was located near Chinatown. At the point where two canals meet the Chao Phraya River, it is thought that a floating market began operating at the site in the early 18th century. The market eventually evolved into a fixed fresh produce market, a fish market, and eventually became the number-one place for all floral needs some 60 years ago.
Sadly, the historic street flower market was closed down in February 2016, as part of wider moves by the local authorities to remove vendors from the pavements of Bangkok.
Vendors at the original Pak Khlong Talad were able to relocate to several places around the city. The nearby shop houses and licensed markets already housed many flower sellers, with the street vendors just a small percentage of the many people selling beautiful floral arrangements. Many street sellers simply moved into those other areas of the Old City, including Yodpiman Flower Market, ICP Flower Market, and Pak Khlong Talad Fruit and Vegetable Market. The Old City remains a hub for flower sales and, while the atmosphere may be a little more organised than previously, it is still a beautiful place to visit and a major centre of trade.
Furthermore, a new market opened on the Thonburi side of the river in 2017 – Pak Khlong Talad 2. The large purpose-built indoor market has around 3,000 stalls and provides wholesale flower merchants with a clean, comfortable, and convenient place to trade. Some sellers have moved operations entirely across the river, while others are reluctant to break away from the community that grew up over the course of several decades.
Bangkok’s flower market has almost any kind of flower and plant imaginable. Prices are usually very affordable, especially for produce grown around the Land of Smiles. Imported flowers are also available. Rows of potted plants and buckets filled with freshly cut stems stretch into the distance, with all kinds of bouquet, arrangement, and garland that you can imagine. Buyers can source ready-made decorations or individual stems and bunches of flowers according to their requirements.
Colourful and aromatic, the flower market appeals to the senses. Bright yellow marigolds sit near roses and carnations in all shades, sweet-smelling jasmine, lilies, chrysanthemum, and more. Decorative vegetable plants, like ginger and cabbages, are also displayed with pride.
Thailand is the biggest global exporter of orchids, so it’s little surprise to find orchids of all colours and sizes throughout the market. Tulips are shipped to the market from cooler provinces like Loei and Chiang Rai. In season, you’ll find large sunflowers, poinsettias, the Siam tulip, and others. The sacred lotus flower, especially while still closed as a bud, is also prevalent.
As well as being able to see completed impressive flower arrangements, it is often possible to watch as skilled flower arrangers create beautiful displays and symbolic items. See people meticulously threading tiny flower buds together to create a pretty phuang malai (garland) and learn more about the art of making baisri, a conical arrangement that uses rolled up pandan and banana leaves with an assortment of flowers and buds. Incense, ribbons, and foliage are used in some arrangements too.
While flowers really are the star attractions, Pak Khlong Talad is also one of the biggest fresh fruit and vegetable markets in central Bangkok. Today’s visitors will find a large selection of tropical fruits and a huge assortment of vegetables, both locally grown and imported. Fruit baskets are popular gifts and you may even see people practicing the fine traditional art of fruit carving. You’ll also find herbs, spices, edible flowers, and a handful of street food vendors within the market.
There are stalls that sell anything and everything related to flower arranging too, with huge bundles and rolls of ribbon, wrapping paper and plastic, pots in all shapes and sizes, and dried and plastic ornamental flowers, leaves, and twigs.
The flower market operates around the clock, with its busiest period typically from midnight to the early hours of the morning when deliveries arrive. The market springs into action as gigantic tubs of produce are offloaded from trucks and people haul carts from stall to stall. Local florists and other businesses arrive en masse to try and get the freshest and prettiest blooms, and the atmosphere is frenzied, vibrant, and energetic.
The flower market is fairly quiet during the day, though this can be the best time to take your time browsing and snapping pictures of all the enchanting sights. There really is no bad time to visit Bangkok’s picturesque flower market!