The title seems uninspired. I would have entitled it "Amazing" but it gives off the vibe that the Tourism Authority of Thailand wrote this piece. Unfortunately, as much as I do not want to sound cliché in this post, amazing is what Bangkok's plant market is.
We had decided early on not to visit the Nong Nooch Botanical Garden so I knew that Chatuchak would be my only plant-related focus on this trip and that I would have to make the most out of it. NOT! At the airport, I came across some fellow plant enthusiasts and received an invitation to meet up with them at around 2 am to head to the market. While I know that some of you think I am overzealous when it comes to plants, one thing I enjoy more is sleep. So a dawn shopping spree was definitely not for me even if it involved plants.
After an early breakfast, I herded the rest of the family into the Skytrain and headed to Mochit Station. While aboard the Skytrain on the approach to the station, one can already see the expansive layout of the market. The entire market is about 27-35 acres (depending on your reference). However, the Plant Market, held on Wednesdays and Thursdays, occupies only the outer ring which I marked in green.
I have been to Thailand several times before but never as a plant lover. In fact, I have even been to Chatuchak (or Jatujak or JJ) as well, but only for the famous weekend market. So, even if this was not my first time and notwithstanding that on my last visit my mobile phone was stolen, I think that this was the most excited that I have ever been to visit Chatuchak. I couldn't wait to get inside the market, as you can see.
These are the views of the roads inside the market. We got there relatively early so they just show a few people walking around.
A few hours later the crowds begin to arrive, not to mention cars and trucks. Just imagine this. The plants occupy a quarter of the road on each side, vehicles in the middle and people with bags of plants walking in different directions on either side of the vehicles. Total mayhem. Can you imagine it? Now, throw in the sweltering noontime heat and the humidity of Bangkok. Crazy! I wouldn't have missed this experience for anything.
But who wants to look at roads? It is a plant market after all. I'll admit that I was remiss in taking photographs. There was much more variety than what I took pictures of, but at that time, and I'm sure all of you will understand, photographing plants was not foremost on my mind.
We decided to go in a counter-clockwise direction. At first it was mostly flowers. There weren't any unusual flowers that would be hard to find here so we were a bit fast-paced. Still, I had to take a picture of the roses beside the bonsai.
Soon after was the first stall with tillandsias. Now, I have to confess that the reason behind this trip was to get a specimen of the Tillandsia roland-gosselini which Paul Isley had mentioned as being quite common among Tillandsia collectors in Thailand. I assumed it would be readily found. That the first vendor did not have any should have been a portent of the end-result.
Across the street were balled out Dracaenas, there was also a tree with purple bananas that I had not seen before and further down the road were some blood lilies.
Around the first corner were rows and rows of palms. Sometimes, either the sellers would not know the plants scientific name or the language barrier would be in full force. I really liked the ones in the first picture but I mistook it for a chinese wind palm (Trachycarpus fortunei). Thankfully, there are very helpful people in the International Palm Society's Palm Talk, such as Gilles and Nigel who both suggested that it was Copernicia alba instead. I also have to thank Pindo, who shared a very informative article on the C. alba.
The picture below shows a Coccothrinax crinita (Old Man's Palm) on the left and a Cyrtostachys renda (lipstick palm) on the right.
Across the palms was a sight that I'm certain would make Along Life's Highway: The Yard Art Game blogger, Cheri, giddy with excitement. These are Thailand's answer to gnomes, as far as I can tell. There were several more stalls with variations of these and other designs.
The elephant is Thailand's national symbol so I was not surprised to find elephant topiaries.
Moving on we came across crotons and cycads.
Then came the water lilies, complete with bees.
Eventually we came to a section with a lot of bromeliads and with more tillandsias. Again, no T. roland-gosselini.
Some Strobilanthes dyerianus in an adjacent stall which fascinated my daughter. She took the picture below.
My children were on the lookout for lithops to purchase for themselves but unfortunately they were as successful with this as I was with the T. roland-gosselini. There were other plants that fascinated them though, such as the one above and also the carnivorous plants.
By this time, the sun was above our heads and the humidity was compounding the heat. The streets had become the crowded and busy streets that I mentioned above. The kids and my wife were beginning to wilt and become irritable. Even the transfer of a purchased tree trunk did not interest them anymore.
So, we decided to go back to the hotel for lunch and to freshen up. After lunch, the rest of my family just wanted to take a nap so I decided to head back to Chatuchak for one more round. I ended up meeting some people from Planet Tillandsia and we chatted around a bit. Still, no T. roland-gosselini. I guess it was not meant to be.
I end this with the following picture. A post about a plant market in Thailand, the land of orchids, would not be complete without it.
If you haven't tired of looking at pictures yet, there are more on:
- Hà Xuân's blog: My Garden at Tuy Son Vien and
- a thread in the Bromeliad Forum of GardenWeb (not all photos are available but still enough to make one drool)