The Flower Market is not closed! It's just changed!
Pak Klong Talad is one of the biggest flower markets in the world, yet last year if you read the reports in the news or on social media you may have been under the impression that the flower market or “Pak Khlong Talat” had been closed down. This is not exactly true, and as the Flower Market is one of our favorite places in Bangkok, we wanted to present a different side of the story and remind people that it is still very much alive.
Last year the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority pushed forward with its mission to return the streets to pedestrians by evicting the street vendors, with areas such as Phra Atthit, Tha Chang, Silom, Sukhumvit and Siam, all feeling the impact. The street vendors around Pak Khlong Talad and Saphan Phut did not escape either and although they continuously fought for extensions to their eviction notice, they eventually were forced off the streets.
There are many viewpoints and while many people say Bangkok is losing the charm and culture of street vendors, others do believe in the benefits of clearing the streets and even that street vendors have had an unfair advantage of selling rent free (or unofficially paying). We will let people make their own decision. However, with this also comes the concerns about the livelihoods of vendors who work hard to survive and in many cases were evicted without any decent alternatives. What is their future and have their voices been fairly heard? Regardless of your viewpoint, there are definitely people who are worse off from such changes and little is being done to help them.
So back to the Flower Market where on July 1, 2016 the street vendors on Chakra Phet Road were officially banned from selling on the street at any time of day.
However, what many people fail to realize is that the vendors who sell on the street were just a fraction of the vendors in the area. The area around Pak Khlong Talat is comprised of 3 large market areas: The Yodpiman Flower Market; Pak Khlong Talad Fruit and Veg market (government owned but managed by Yodpiman); The ICP Flower Market privately owned market. In addition along the Chakra Phet Road most of the shops also sell flowers or related items. All the vendors in these areas have always paid rent and carry on unaffected. Most of the street vendors accepted their fate and moved into these areas. Some of the shops have also been revamped to host street vendors. In addition a new market areas have been set up 300m away opposite Suan Galab School. There is is also a completely new market area that has emerged on the outskirts if Bangkok called Pak Khlong Talad 2 which will be huge when fully complete but most vendors still chose to sell in the original market.
Many of the people who sold on the streets of Pak Khlong Talad are actually very successful businesses who have regular wholesale customers, some are employing 20+ hardworking and low paid people behind the scenes, and some paid quite a lot of money to have the right to sell rent free on the street. Unlike a lot of street markets this is big business and the street vendors are just the tip of a very big iceberg, You could say they have actually had an advantage over the majority of other vendors in the area who have been paying rent.
So is it a bad thing the street vendors have been moved?
Everyone has different views and there is no doubt that the flower market has lost some of its charm and this may well have effected tourism to the area, but let’s face it – tourists do not buy many flowers!
However the area remains one of the biggest fresh flower markets in the world so for those who are prepared to get off the main street there is plenty to see! For those who actually want to buy flowers you can still find the same vendors and the reality is the market areas are actually now better organized – if you can get beyond the feeling that chaos added to the charm! The new areas that have opened up opposite Suan Galab School and at Yodpiman River Walk are clean, dry and more organized. But yes – the vendors now have to pay rent!
Cities evolve and so do markets. Go back 60 years and Pak Khlong Talad actually used to be a fish market! Saphan Phut closed down but newer, hipper markets are opening up. They may be a bit more organized that what Bangkok is known for but this is not necessary a bad thing and many of the new markets are super popular with locals.
We believe that Pak Khlong Talad / The Flower Market, still has a lot going for it. It is still one of the biggest market areas in central Bangkok and with that it is a great one to explore. With a new MRT station due to open next to the market in the next 2 years it is set to be even more accessible than it has been in the past and with the building of Yodpiman River Walk 3 years ago it actually has a lot more going for it as a destination