Floral Frenzy: Flowers Galore at Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok
Pak Khlong Talat flower market in Bangkok is a well-known tourist attraction that draws in visitors by the bucket load. This wholesale flower market is a sight to see, as truckloads of flowers from across Thailand and beyond arrive around the clock to be sorted, made into garlands, and resold to florists, restaurants, hotels, and just good old residents from throughout Bangkok looking to brighten up their homes. Pak Khlong Talat is also a popular fruit and vegetable market, but it’s the flowers that steal the show every time – and here’s a look at some of the floral bounty you can score on a visit to Bangkok’s famous flower market.
You’ll truly find it hard to wander around Pak Khlong Talat flower market without spotting a few bags of colourful yellow-orange marigolds – or perhaps a few hundred bags! These flowers are a favourite across Thailand – and indeed they are used in memorials to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, having been of his favourite types of flower, too – and they are in abundance at the flower market. You will often see vast displays of marigolds left as offerings at Buddhist temples at Thailand, thanks to the influence of Hinduism – in which marigolds are believed to symbolise good luck and prosperity, and so often feature prominently in wedding ceremonies – on Thailand’s predominant Theravada branch of Buddhism.
Carnations are perhaps the variety of flowers at Pak Khlong Talat that are most obviously suited to popping in a vase to decorate your home. They come in countless shades, and are an easy way to add a pop of colour to any room. Best of all, they are also cheap as chips – expect to be able to pick up a newspaper-rolled bunch of beautiful carnations for as little as 20 baht.
Here is a flower that just screams Thailand in so many ways. The delicate creamy shade of jasmine flowers is unmatched, and their irresistible, gentle scent is unmistakable. At Pak Khlong Talat and indeed at other markets across Bangkok and elsewhere around Thailand, jasmine flowers are most often seen being threaded into garlands that can either be given as offerings at Buddhist temples or to animist spirits at structures found in all sorts of places across the country, or indeed simply strung across the rear-view mirror in your car in order to bring you good luck and a safe journey (the concept, of appeasing malevolent spirits and keeping protecting spirits nearby, is the same). But beyond that, jasmine flowers make a beautiful addition to the home when simply allowed to float in a small traditional metal dish of water, their aroma gently wafting about the place and enlightening everything in its path.
Pak Khlong Talat flower market of course comes into full bloom around Valentine’s Day – when the price of roses also predictably shoots up both here and right across Bangkok – but you’ll find beautiful roses here in shades of red and pink all through the year. Whether you buy a single rose or a whole bunch, and whether they are for yourself or for someone special, they make for an easy and recognisable flower to pick up among all the heady sights and smells of the various new, beautiful and exciting floral varieties to be found at Bangkok’s flower market.
More often steeped in hot water to be consumed as an aromatic, nourishing tea, chrysanthemum flowers are also beautiful to look at and more than worth placing around your home – or even your hotel room, if you only have a few days in Bangkok – for a burst of bright yellow. Chrysanthemums also make their way into bai-sri, conical-shaped arrangements of rolled-up banana or pandan leaves surrounded by chrysanthemums and other flowers, which are intended as both beautiful and symbolic religious and spiritual offerings for ceremonies around Thailand.
Little is more Thai than an orchid. These delicate year-round flowers are notoriously sensitive and don’t last long, and indeed many wild varieties around the world have sadly entered extinction – but Thailand is the home of the orchid, with a huge proportion of the world’s specimens of this beautiful flower being found here, and you won’t find a much wider, more accessible selection of stunning cut orchids available for purchase than at Bangkok’s Pak Khlong Talat flower market. Orchids in different colours are believed to carry varying meanings, from passion, desire, grace, and joy, to longevity, health, boldness, and pride – and they make a beautiful specimen to display around the home as a way to add both colour and a subtle but unmistakably aromatic perfume.
Another flower that holds particular significance in Thailand – and in its majority Buddhist beliefs – is that of the lotus plant. The plant, which grows in shallow waters like lakes and ponds, produces large, strikingly elegant flowers in shades of white and pink. Various religious legends connected with lotus flowers surround events such as the birth and life of the Buddha, and the lotus itself is often both depicted in images at Buddhist temples and used figuratively in Buddhist teachings. In fact, the common collection of trinkets used to make offerings to Buddha images at temples around Thailand is a lotus flower, candle, and joss stick, clasped between the hands during a prayer-like action. Yet all of the religious connotations aside, lotus flowers are ripe for appreciation even if simply in a vase in your home or hotel room. And, since we love flowers that are also edible, the lotus plant holds a particularly special place in our hearts, given that it can be put to culinary use almost in its entirety (we have a particular soft spot for the raw seeds, which have an ultra-fresh broad-bean-like taste, but there are numerous ways of enjoying these and the other parts of the lotus in everything from soups to desserts).
Also known as baby’s breath, these tiny, delicate white flowers add a touch of pure, angelic daintiness to any setting – it’s not for nothing that their nod to enduring love means they often feature strongly at wedding ceremonies not just in Thailand, but all over the world – and they are available by the bucket load at Pak Khlong Talat, where a bouquet of beautiful gypsophila flowers will set you back very little indeed. These look stunning when interspersed among brighter, more vividly coloured flowers in a vase, but equally they take on impressive visual power when displayed in vast quantities (which, at these prices, it’s easy to do without spending a fortune!) for a real show-stopper of a floral spray.
Which are your favourite Thai flowers? Which flowers have you spotted or bought at the flower market in Bangkok? Let us know in the comments!
Photos by Ninara; Mark Fischer; Arun Katiyar; Irene2005; christiankaff