At Bangkok’s huge Pak-Klong-Talad flower market, a florist weaves tiny, fragrant flowers into garlands, garlands and crowns. (Janet Podolak – Herald News)
A visit to Bangkok’s sprawling Pak-Klong-Talad flower market can be compared to much of Thailand.
In the historic old town on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the market is colorful and fragrant, not far from the must-see Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
Smiles were on the faces of the florist as they carefully folded lotus petals and strung fragrant jasmine flowers into garlands, in typical gentle demeanor of Thailand, known as the “Land of Smiles”.
I wanted to make the most of this shore excursion on the last day of my 32 day cruise with Oceania cruise line Nautica and learn more about a country I last visited 20 years ago.
I know that flowers play an important role in the lives of the Thai people, who buy fragrant garlands to hang on their car mirrors for good luck with Mae Yanang, the Goddess of Journey, on chaotic roads. Flower arrangements are ubiquitous in hotels and restaurants, and they can be given as offerings or as gifts. Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of orchids, which cost less than a dollar.
The sprawling flower market, with more than 3,000 vendors, is most active in the early morning hours, when chilled roses, orchids and lotuses arrive from the cooler northern provinces and tourist-friendly businesses flock to buy them. their flower arrangements. But Pak-Klong-Talad is open 24 hours a day and is a lovely place to stroll when you wake up jet-lagged at 1am.
Not far from the equator, Bangkok is one of the hottest cities in the world, so it makes sense to plan your trip early.
Marigold garlands are popular in religious ceremonies because of their name, “dao ruang,” which means prosperity in Thai, and their yellow color is associated with Buddhism.
The lotus has significance in the Buddhist tradition as a symbol of enlightenment. Legend has it that where the little Buddha stepped, lotus flowers bloomed. When a flower is only partially open and its center is hidden, it means that enlightenment is at hand.
My enlightened daughter, who joined me on the cruise, came home with the ultimate souvenir — a lotus tattoo on her upper back.
The shore excursion on board followed our guide through the flower market’s maze of narrow passages, walking carefully so as not to slip on the wet floor. At each stop, the guide explained to us what we were seeing and what it symbolized, and pointed us to where to go next. The ship limits the number of people on shore excursions to make groups more manageable and ensure everyone has a good experience.
Early in our visit to the flower market, I told the tour guide that I would stop to take pictures and maybe get away from the crowds sometimes. She promised not to lose me, but just in case, she pointed out where we would meet up for a tuk-tuk ride to the nearby Wat Pho. Tuk-tuks are three-wheeled open vehicles suitable for two people to travel short distances on the crowded streets of Bangkok.
I had been to Wat Pho earlier on my trip to Bangkok and saw the reclining Buddha, but at the time my focus was on the Thai massage school there. The Wat Pho complex was founded in the seventh century when it served as the headquarters of the country’s traditional medicine, which includes massage that tones the body’s meridians. While many people find Thai massage painful, I enjoyed the two-hour massage and returned to Wat Pho several times during my two-week visit. Massages are performed on subjects who are fully clothed and lying on the padded floor of a large gazebo. A two-hour treatment costs about $10 and requires an appointment. Unfortunately, the time allotted for shore excursions did not allow me to indulge this visit.
The huge reclining Buddha was added to the Wat Pho complex in 1849. Made of brick and plaster but covered in gleaming gold leaf, and 150 feet long by 50 feet high, it is almost incomprehensible and even more difficult to photograph. Buddha’s feet alone are 16 feet long.
Visitors must remove their shoes before entering and are given the opportunity to purchase a bowl of coins as they walk around the reclining Buddha. These coins are offerings placed in small brass bowls around the colossal statue to bestow good luck.
Bangkok was the final stop on our month-long voyage, but we also visited two other ports in Thailand before that.
We encountered monkeys on the wild tropical island of Koh Samui, located in the Gulf of Thailand south of Bangkok and across the Thai peninsula from the more famous island of Phuket. Both islands are touted as great beach destinations, but we opted for tiger encounters in Phuket (bit.ly/grandvoycage-pt-3 ), while in Koh Samui we saw giants trained to harvest coconuts macaque.
Coconuts are a major cash crop on Koh Samui, a circular island measuring just 9 miles in size and home to 40,000 year-round residents. The island’s roads weren’t built until the 1970s, and its rugged interior is largely uninhabitable.
The island produces 3 million coconuts a month and trains monkeys captured from the interior to harvest the coconuts. When we left the bus tour of the coconut plantation to witness the monkeys at work, we were warned not to try to pet them, even if they were domesticated.
After a monkey on a long leash climbed a tall coconut tree and brought the coconuts to the ground, I got up close to take a picture of it. When it showed me its fangs, I backed away quickly, convinced the creature wasn’t as cute as I thought it would be.
My month-long voyage on Oceania Cruises’ Nautica took me to 19 ports in South Africa between Cape Town and Bangkok. Shore excursions cost extra, but Oceania allows passengers to book excursions in advance and offers great discounts when booking multiple excursions. Please visit OceaniaCruises.com for more information.
Working with Direct Travel’s instructor, Jennifer Fried, I planned many of the details of the cruise including visas, insurance, excursions and bookings. Please call her at 440-946-4040.
Visit bit.ly/podolak-nautica-2023 to read other stories collected from my once-in-a-lifetime adventure.