I said I’d write about Bangkok Flower Market in a post I published back in January. It might be March now, but I’ve never been one to break a promise, even if it does come with endless apologies for being late. I’ve never really learnt the art of being early, come to think of it. Even as a kid I was the one sprinting for the bus, waving my bag like a lunatic in the hope that the driver would see me in his rear view mirror (something that I – unfortunately – couldn’t do whilst running through Bangkok airport as they announced the final call for my flight home).
Too often I’m in a world of my own, daydreaming or observing others; ambling along as if I’ve nowhere to be. Arriving to work on time, for me, is sitting down behind my desk just in time for the Sky 9 o’clock news to come on, but I know I shouldn’t admit to that.
I might now be home from my Southeast Asia trip, but my story isn’t over yet. I have two notepads filled with memories still to type up, so stay with me. I still haven’t told you about the time I lost my purse and caught a ride to a remote Western Union bank, when I looked into the amber eye of an elephant, or when I asked a man for directions one afternoon in Laos and ended up sat in a cafe listening to his tales for 3 hours instead. I find myself slowly forgetting snippets of detail, and that terrifies me. If it wasn’t for my trusty notebooks, I’d have let so many moments slip away already.
Anyhow, about that flower market…
I mentioned in an earlier post that Bangkok Flower Market, also called Pak Klong Talad, is the largest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok. It’s located on Chak Phet Road, where you’ll find stall after stall of freshly cut roses, orchids and more species of flowers on sale at incredibly cheap prices, 24 hours a day. It’s reportedly at its liveliest after midnight when new deliveries are made from around the country, but I rolled up at around 10pm and still found it to be pretty hectic.
Walking down the narrow path in-between rows of stalls, I am overwhelmed by the sweet, fragrant air, vibrant colours and sheer busyness of the place. It is a working market – not a tourist attraction – after all, and as much as I want to stop to take photographs, every time I do I make someone behind me wait, unable to get past, so instead I (rather hurredly) proceed on. Of course, before long, I am at the end of the Chak Phet Road, looking out to a silent blackness that is strikingly alien in comparison with the chaos and colour behind me.
It’s not over yet, though – I haven’t come all of this way to rush, even if I do feel out of place here. I cross over the road to yet more beautiful stalls overflowing with flowers, and in my nervous haste (it is only my third night travelling solo, and I think the reality of being alone in Bangkok is finally setting in), I stumble upon an indoor market hall. Of course (as is usually the case) curiosity gets the better of me, and I venture into the clinically-lit indoor flower market, but immediately want to leave. It’s not that there’s anything horrifying inside, as such, just a maze of foreign, questioning eyes peering up to me. I feel exposed – uneasy, and I feel a sudden urgency to get out.
Stepping outside, I am unsure what to do next – leave feeling unsettled, or not? I carry on down the path, considering my options, when something catches my eye and I abruptly stop. I turn back to take the scene in for a second. I spy – through a darkened, questionable alley – a safe haven. Starbucks is up ahead, brightly lit up, but to reach it, I have to walk through an alley that has ‘impending doom’ written all over it.
What’s the worst that could happen?
I take a deep breath and go.
[I am suddenly aware that this is starting to sound a lot more like a horror story than a real series of events, so here are some photographs to break it up a little. If it helps, there’s a happy ending.]
Stepping inside the somewhat familiar Starbucks, I feel an instant wave of relief. It sounds silly to say it now, but I think that’s what I needed – something familiar, homely, to settle my nerves. Debussy’s Clare de Lune welcomes me in (how cheesy, I know, but it’s true! I jotted it down so that I wouldn’t forget), and I order a chocolate brownie and a latte. There’s a distinct hubbub of young, careless laughter in here, and it seems this is where all the cool kids congregate.
I’m not much of a cake eater back at home, but that night, I devoured that brownie as if I’d never before tasted chocolate. I know that there’s a chemical of some sort in chocolate that’s meant to produce feelings of happiness; perhaps it was this that was to blame for my sudden change in mood. Either way, I felt happy there, thousands of miles away from home.
[A quick Google search has revealed that there’s actually more than one feel-good chemical found in the sweet treat; the main one, though, is phenylethylamine.]
After a while I get up to leave, but I notice that there’s a back door and, with a new-found confidence, I go to check it out. I come outside to a beautiful – unexpected – river pier, which is bustling with activity. There’s a large cruise ship drifting past, its calming blue lights reflecting in the water; to my left, colourful cake shops that look as if they’ve come straight out of a Lewis Carroll novel dot the pier. It feels almost surreal, to go from feeling lost and uncertain, to feeling so calm and free in such a short space of time. Of course, I still have to get back to my hotel, so after a little stroll I have one last (more enjoyable) walk through Bangkok Flower Market, before hailing a tuk-tuk.
Photographs from Bangkok Flower Market
That tuk-tuk ride was intense – so intense that I named a blog after it entitled ‘Bangkok, Day 3 – I Live!, which you can read here if you’d like. For now, I’m going to have to leave it there (I have work in the morning). I will, however, leave you with the below images, which are of a hundred roses I couldn’t help but buy and organise into makeshift vases at stupid o’clock in the morning at my hotel.
Follow Me Through Southeast Asia
Goodnight! Don’t forget to give me a thumbs up or a follow if you enjoyed this post. I’ll be back soon with more solo female travel tales. You can also find me on Twitter @ksfahey, where I post mainly travel-related musings! Thanks for reading!