At 3 o’clock on Saturday morning, Theresa and I were in a taxi speeding along the far from deserted roads of Bangkok. Our journey took us southwest on Sathorn, across the Chao Phraya into Thonburi, past Wongwian Yai Circle and the monument to King Taksin the Great, back over the river, and finally to Pak Khlong Talat (see below).
For many people in Bangkok (particularly the tourists), 3 a.m. is the end of one (more) long night of debauchery. Indeed, we saw many taxis and tuk-tuks carrying late-night revelers home (or, perhaps as likely, onward for further fun.) For Theresa and me, this was a very, very early morning. For the people at Pak Khlong Talat, however, it was work and business as usual.
In Thai, Pak means “mouth”, Khlong is “canal”, and Talat is “market”, so Pak Khlong Talat is the market at the mouth of the canal. Our fifteen minute, three dollar cab ride brought us to Bangkok’s primary flower market. While the market also sells fresh produce and spices, the major wholesale outlet for fruits and vegetables is located in Talat Thai on the northern edge of Bangkok.
Pak Khlong Talat is open 24/7, but we were told that the best time to visit was in the early morning hours when trucks and boats bring fresh flowers in from the countryside. During the wee hours, local florists, merchants, and buyers for hotels and restaurants are also at the market to purchase the flowers, fruit and vegetables they will need for the coming day’s business. So advised, we set the alarm for 2:15 a.m. so that we could be at the market by 3 a.m.
What a sight — so many colorful flowers and so much food that it is almost impossible to believe that all will be consumed before they turn bad. But fresh flowers are everywhere in Thailand, particularly at hotels, restaurants, temples and shrines, but also at some offices and retail establishments. There are around 500 temples in Bangkok alone, hundreds of hotels, even more guest houses and hostels, and thousands of restaurants. There are also roughly 20 million people in the greater metro area. In this context, the large quantities of fresh flowers and produce at Pak Khlong Talat are really just an integral part of the daily supply chain.
The vivid kaleidoscope of colors from the roses, jasmine, lilies, marigolds, orchids, daisies, carnations, birds-of-paradise, and other flowers were rivaled by their fragrant aromas. The perfumed air in Pak Khlong Talat was a pleasant reprieve from the often unpleasant smells that can emanate from the city’s polluted air and water.
The pre-dawn market was a beehive of activity. Trucks laden with produce were maneuvering through narrow roads and passages. Everywhere you turned, muscled young men were moving large wicker baskets of food and flowers on hand-drawn carts and dollies — from the trucks to the large wholesalers and from the wholesalers to the smaller vendors. Some people were making flower arrangements, others were stringing jasmine and marigolds into garlands, others were sorting through the produce, while still others were selling the flowers, fruits, vegetables, and newly produced goods. Some vendors walked through the markets selling supplies, e.g., marking pens and labels, and even clothing to the flower and produce sellers. There were, of course, food vendors to feed the workers and the internet cafe we passed was crowded with adolescents. Young children worked with their parents and some of the older vendors looked like they have been around since the market opened 60 some years ago.
We wandered through the market for two and a half hours. By 6 a.m., we were back home with two farm-fresh pineapples (under $1 each), a pound (half kilo, to be precise) of strawberries (just over $2), and a bouquet of 50 roses (just under $2). What a way to spend a late night (or early morning) even if you are not an insomniac.
I took two road trips this week to attend the grand opening ceremonies for three new sales outlets. All three are brand new facilities that would rival dealerships in the U.S.
On Wednesday, I went to the first new dealership in Lam Luk Ka (point B), a district in Northern Bangkok. Friday was an all day trip, first out to Klaeng (point D) in the province of Rayong and then onto Laem Cha Bang (point E) in the province of Chonburi. Days like this are when I really appreciate having a driver since I can actually get some work done during the several hours that it takes to reach these more distant places. (I can also rest my eyes!)
When we were about one-half hour from home on Friday, we were sitting in traffic when our car was hit by a taxi that was going just a few miles per hour. The cab (a Toyota) bore the brunt of the damage with a broken headlamp and damage to its front quarter panel. From what I could see, the Teana came through without a scratch! Nevertheless, we had to wait an hour for the insurance adjuster to come out and take pictures of both cars, hence a long day became even longer.
If the following chart from the Obama administration’s recently released budget document isn’t enough to terrify people, God help the Republic.
Is it too much to ask the Obama administration and Congress to focus on responsibly reforming the entitlement programs that are driving the nation’s long-term debt and fiscal problems? And, while they are at it, perhaps they could stop stripping Americans of our fundamental liberty and freedom.
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2012 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.