Talad Baan Mai: Nostalgic Market in Chachoengsao Province

The Baan Mai Riverside Market is located on Baan Mai Road next to the serene Bangkapong river in Chachoengsao province (จังหวัดฉะเชงเทรา) in central Thailand.  It is about an hour’s drive east of Bangkok.

At Talad Baan Mai

At Talad Baan Mai*

At Talad Baan Mai*

Talad Baan Mai (ตลาดบ้านใหม่) has been in this sleepy province for over 100 years and thus visitors can enjoy a glimpse of traditional town life there. The market is open on weekends and on public holidays.

A vintage market, selling all kinds of wares*

A vintage market, selling all kinds of wares, Talad Baan Mai in Chachoengsao province *

This market is mainly a vintage and nostalgic Thai streetfood market where you can find numerous Thai and Chinese delicacies and treats. There are also local dishes that you hardly find anywhere else.

A Thai streetfood market*

A Thai streetfood market, the Baan Mai Riverside Market*

The stalls sell mainly traditional Thai street food. The dishes range from aromatic curries to chilli pastes and fried and dried river fish.

Selling river fish*

Selling river fish at Talad Baan Mai*

Of course there are also plenty of Thai sweet snacks like coconut sticky rice in banana leaves and Thai crispy rice crackers with cane sugar drizzle on top (Khanom Nang Led), for instance.

Coconut sticky rice in banana leaves*

Selling coconut sticky rice in banana leaves*

Selling Thai crispy sweet rice crackers*

Selling Thai crispy sweet rice crackers (Khanom Nang Led)*

What is more, there are vendors selling all kinds of retro but also modern wares such as plenty of children’s plastic toys and souvenirs.

Plenty of children's plastic toys*

Plenty of children’s plastic toys*

All kinds of wares and souvenirs*

All kinds of wares and souvenirs at the Baan Mai Riverside Market*

The old wooden shop houses, which have been preserved from at least 50 years ago, contribute to the nostalgic flair of the market. They are reminiscent of how Thailand must have been six to eight decades ago.

A market with nostalgic flair*

A market with nostalgic flair and wooden shop houses*

Rustic market restaurant among wooden shophouses*

Rustic market restaurant among wooden shophouses*

There is also a stall that sells live fish to be released. Since many Thai Buddhists like to make merit by releasing live fish into the river, it comes in useful that Talad Baan Mai is situated next to the Bangpakong River. This river flows through Thailand’s eastern provinces of Chachoengsao and Prachin Buri. Hence, go right ahead bestowing the fishes their freedom and thereby making merit 🙂

Make merit by releasing live fish*

Make merit by releasing live fish*

Finally, I think that Talad Baan Mai is an authentic Thai street food market that offers numerous delicacies and treats. In addition, you find many retro wares there but also plenty of souvenirs.

Yours, Sirinya




Phuang Malai: Thai Floral Garlands

One of the most beautiful and artful things in Thailand is the Phuang Malai (พวงมาลัย). This is the Thai traditional garland which is the most common of all the country’s floral creations. These traditional garlands range from simple to highly complex arrangements and are placed as offerings on shrines, temples or are given to special guests as a sign of respect. What is more, the Malai is also frequently used on auspicious occasions.

Phuang Malai

Phuang malai garlands being constructed in Pak Khlong Talat flower market, Bangkok (photo: Irene2005, wikimedia.org)

Phuang Malai garlands being constructed in Pak Khlong Talat flower market, Bangkok (photo: Irene2005, wikimedia.org)

The Thai garlands are created by stringing various flower combinations together that depends on seasonal blooms and on the artist’s imagination. The mixture usually includes one or more fragrant flowers like jasmine and rose buds.

Thai garlands at Bangkok Pak Khlong Talat (photo: Deror Avi, wikimedia.org)

Thai garlands at Bangkok Pak Khlong Talat (photo: Deror Avi, wikimedia.org)

It is said that the first recordings of this kind of Thai floral art dates back to the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). He mentioned fresh flower garlands in his work about the “Royal ceremony in 12 months”. Later in the Rattanakosin Era, the Thai flower garland became an important ornamental ceremonial object on special occasions.

Worshipped elephant at Wat Kham Chanot near Ban Dung, Thailand (photo: Mattes, wikimedia.org)

Worshipped elephant at Wat Kham Chanot near Ban Dung, Thailand (photo: Mattes, wikimedia.org)

There are different kinds of Malai pattern. For example, there is ‘Creature Malai’ which means that the floral arrangement has the shape of an animal. Then there is the ‘Chained Malai’ which is made from rounded Malais connected to form a chain and similarly, there is the ‘Braided Malai’ which means that two rounded garlands are connected and decorated with a pine-shaped malai on each end.

A Malai (photo: Garland in Thai culture, FB page

An artful Malai (photo: Garland in Thai culture, FB page)

In the ‘Vine Malai’ the garlands are arranged in a vine shape. A garland is a ‘Laced Malai’ when silver and golden threaths are inserted inside and outside the wreath. A special Malai is the orchid one which means that only orchids are used to create the garland.

Thailand Bangkok Pak Khlong Talat flower market (photo: ovedc, wikimedia.org)

Floral arrangements at Bangkok Pak Khlong Talat flower market (photo: ovedc, wikimedia.org)

In Thai culture, the Malai is commonly used as an offering, a gift or souvernir. Thus, we can generally distinguish between three main uses of these garlands which are Malai chai deaw (มาลัยชายเดียว), an offering to show respect at a shrine or temple, for instance. Then there is Malai song chai (มาลัยสองชาย), this is when a traditional Thai garland is given to and draped around the neck of a person to emphasize the importance of that person.

Pak Khlong Talat - flowers and vegetables market, nightime, Bangkok (photo: Deror Avi, wikimedia.org)

Pak Khlong Talat – flowers and vegetables market, nightime, Bangkok (photo: Deror Avi, wikimedia.org)

Finally, there is also the Malai chum rui (มาลัยชำร่วย) which is a souvenir malai. This is a small garland given to people as a souvenir. Thus, Malai chum rui may be compared to the lei in Hawaiian culture. Today, the Malai may also be a fashionable accessory (though many Thai people dissapprove of it). For instance, Thai fashion designer Rotsaniyom use small floral garlands for shoe decoration.

The Rotsaniyom Malai collection uses traditional Thai flower garlands as shoe decoration

The Rotsaniyom Malai collection uses traditional Thai flower garlands as shoe decoration (photo: Rotsaniyom, FB page)

At the Bangkok International Fashion Week 2015, I also spotted some interesting and edgy interpreations of the Thai floral garland. Caption this.

Edgy incoporation of the phuang malai at the BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

Edgy incoporation of the phuang malai at the BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

A hairstyle and face decoration inspired by Thai floral garlands, BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

A hairstyle and face decoration inspired by Thai floral garlands, BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

Phuang Malai as an edgy fashion accessory BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

Phuang Malai as an edgy fashion accessory BIFW 2015 (photo: Amat Nimitpark)

Summing up, we may say that Phuang Malai has various forms and functions in Thai culture. In my opinion, it is the most versatile, elaborate and amazing Thai art form. Hence, next time you’re in Thailand, get yourself some nice flower wreaths 🙂

Yours, Sirinya




Baan Bat – Bangkok’s Monk Bowl Village

Baan Bat (‘Home of the Bat’) is a temple supply neighbourhood loacted near Wat Saket on Soi Baan Bat alley in Bangkok. In this community, craftsmen have created alms bowls for monks, which are called ‘bat’ (บาตร) in Thai, since the 1700s. Baan Bat is probably the last village established in the 18th century by King Rama I to create these kinds of bowls. It is said that the community originally fled from war in Ayutthaya to find harbour in Bangkok.

Baan Bat

Monk's bowl village in Bangkok*

Monk’s bowl village in Bangkok*

In a daily rituals, Buddhist monks walk along the Sois to collect donations of food (alms). Hence, they carry large bowls, the ‘bat’, with them so that the faithful can give them food and other items sustaining their life in the monasteries. The monk’s bowl village is considered to be the last community of this kind in Thailand. Today, the bowls are almost solely produced in factories. Hence, the majority of communities producing these alms bowls are already extinct.

Materials used for producing alms bowls*

Materials used for producing alms bowls*

The handcrafted bowls are amazing and it takes fine skills and craftsmanship to produce them. Hence, using traditional methods, it takes approximately two days to create a bat. Each bowl is assembled from eight strips of metal which are supposed to represent Buddha’s Eightfold Path which should lead to cessation of suffering and eventually to self-awakening.

Craftsman at work in Baan Bat*

Craftsman at work in Baan Bat*

In a first step to produce a bowl, the eight metal strips are fired for six hours and then hammered into a curve. They are then overlaid like spokes and soldered together.

A craftsman hammering a metal stripe into a curve*

A craftsman hammering a metal stripe into a curve*

In the final step, the surface of the bowl is polished and lacquered until it shines. Each step takes place at a different house along the small alleyway where the few remaining families live. Making an alms bowl requires muscular strength and it is a hard job. A new bowl may weight up to two kilos.

Creating a bowl by hand*

Creating a bowl by hand*

The Baan Bat community creates around 50 bowls per month and they also produce small souvenir bowls for tourists. Hence, their offer ranges from three-inch souvenir sizes to nine-inch stainless steel bowls. There are three common shapes which are called ‘look jaan’ (a Thai fruit), manao (lime), and hua sara (Tiger’s Head).

Different shapes of bowls*

Different shapes of handmade bowls*

It seems that the Tiger’s Head bowl is the most popular style and the most expensive. Hence, a stainless steel one sells for about 3,000 Baht. This kind of bowl is also the most robust since its inside is protected with clear gloss varnish. In comparison, the ‘look jaan’ bowl is made of a thinner white metal. Hence, it is more lightweight and the form seems to be more squat than tall. What is more, it does not have the thick protective top rim. For this reason, a bowl of this style is cheaper than the Tiger’s Head. The price for a ‘look jaan’ is about 1,400 Baht.

The finished products, fine handcrafted bowls*

The finished products, fine handcrafted bowls*

The standard monk’s bowl is eight-and-a-half inches across the top. It is made of white metal and the seams are joined with copper. The bowl may be blackened to protect it from rusting. Hence, the bowl can be put in fire for several hours. Usually, the monks take an unfinished bowl and blacken it in the temple’s fire.

Blackening the bowls*

Lacquering  the bowls*

The place is open from Monday to Friday (10.00-20.00) daily and the admission is free. For all those interested in the production process and for more detailed information, it is possible to arrange a viewing in advance.

The working process*

The working process*

Summing up, we may claim that Baan Bat offers an important insight into Thailand’s history and cultural tradition. Nonethelss, the village is probably the last of its kind in Thailand. However, the bowls they produce there are very durable and supply all Thai monks. Hence, for all those interested in traditional Thai craftsmanship, this is the place for you 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

*photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram @knack66