Bangkok is home to some of Thailand’s most celebrated tourist attractions. The Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Pho to name just three. Close to these three well-known sites is Pak Klong Talad, the biggest wholesale market in Bangkok. Whilst it might not be a typical tourist attraction, Pak Klong Talad does attract visitors seeking out Bangkok experiences that are off the usual tourist trail. The area is a fascinating place to visit and experience the round-the-clock activity and bustle of an authentic working market.
Pak Klong Talad is best known for its flower market, but fruit and vegetables are also sold here. The market is a feast for the senses. Dazzling yellow chrysanthemums by the thousands are bunched up next to purple orchids. In the side-streets, chillies form a fiery traffic light of colour with red, amber and green filling table-tops and overflowing on to pavements. Pencil-thin old men compete with the younger whippersnappers pushing trolleys full of produce to and from the wholesalers. Passers-by are tantalised by whiffs of jasmine and the perfume of orchids hangs heavy in the humid Bangkok air. All around the constant cackle of commerce provides the soundtrack that plays gently in the day increasing in volume at night before reaching a crescendo in the peak trading hours before dawn.
Chrysanthemums are amongst the best sellers at Pak Klong Talad. These flowers are used on a daily basis in Buddhism and found at temples and shrines throughout Thailand. The market caters to seasonal demands with the lead up to Valentine’s Day seeing an abundance of red roses, but whenever you visit the flowers on display are an incredible sight. The market is open to individual buyers, but it is mainly a wholesale market. If you’ve ever checked in at a hotel in Bangkok to find orchids or garlands on your bed, those flowers have almost certainly started the day at Pak Klong Talad. If you visit the market, you’ll be able to see the florists working on delicate garlands and intricate displays.
History of Pak Klong Talad
This part of Bangkok has been an important trading area dating back more than 200 years. During the reign of King Rama I, Pak Klong Talad was the site of a floating market. Decades later during the reign of King Rama V (King Chulalongkorn) the area became a fish market. When the fish traders moved out in the mid 1900s, the flower, fruit and vegetable sellers moved in and Pak Klong Talad is now firmly established as the most important flower market in Thailand. Flowers are delivered to Pak Klong Talad from nearby provinces such as Nakhon Phatom and Samut Songkhram, but also further afield from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
Visiting Pak Klong Talad
Tourists are welcome to visit the market, but if you do go please respect the fact there are people here trying to make a living. Keep out of the way of the porters pushing barrows and the vehicles making deliveries. There is a plethora of food stalls close to Pak Klong Talad and I’d highly recommend taking the opportunity to have some street food here. Sitting down quietly, eating Thai food and watching the frenetic activity going on all around gives you a whole new perspective on the market and the people who work there.
Don’t be put off visiting Pak Klong Talad if you think you have to come here late at night or in the early hours of the morning. Whilst it’s true that this is the busiest time for the market, it is open every day and can be visited any time of the day or night. I’ve visited in the afternoon, early evening and late at night and enjoyed it each time. Mind your step though, especially at night when traffic in and around the market can be hectic. Delivery trucks come and go, tuk-tuks piled high with flowers whizz around, motorbikes seem to appear from all directions and in the middle of it all are the barrow-pushing porters criss-crossing the streets. It’s all very Thai and makes for an enjoyable experience.
Pak Klong Talad Market stretches along Chak Phet Road and into adjacent side-streets (see map below). The market is close to Memorial Bridge (Saphan Phut) and is easy to get to by river boat. Get off the boat at the Memorial Bridge pier (Tha N6). The market is also within comfortable walking distance of Wat Pho. There are no Skytrain or metro stations nearby and if you visit the market late at night when there are no river boats, it’s easier to take a taxi.