If you are looking for an early morning activity in Chiang Mai, then one of my favourite places to spend an hour Tonlamyai Market, the brightly coloured, bustling flower market. Located just next to Worarot Market on Praisanai Road, just by the river, it is open 24 hours a day, with deliveries being made in the early hours of the morning. This is why it makes a great early morning wander; the stalls are full of fresh flowers and late supplies are just arriving. The market is mostly bunched together and covered by tarpaulins, but walking along Praisani Rd allows you to be out in the open and enjoy the sights. Seeing a rickety van packed full of piles of freshly cut orchids, and stalls bunching together hundreds of roses is a sight worth waking up for, and a small bunch of your own costs next to nothing. Getting there isn’t too tricky, ask the songtaew or tuk tuk for ‘Ton Lamyai’, or if you prefer a longer walk it is only fifteen minutes from the Thae Pae Gate, walking away from the old town.
Talat Tonlamyai is the only place to get fresh flowers in central Chiang Mai and for that reason it is a hive of activity, filled with locals and visiting Bangkokians, who love photographing the stunning blooms. Flowers are an important part of Buddhist culture and are often given as an offering at temples and shrines. You may also see garlands of fresh flowers, often with roses swinging from rear view mirrors. Known as phuang malai these are said to protect people from harm, so don’t be surprised if you see a taxi driver nipping out of his cab to grab one. Chiang Mai is blessed with cooler weather and for that reason the variety of flowers on offer is impressive. As well as orchids and jasmine you can find roses, pussy willow, chrysanthemums, lotus flowers, and even bird of paradise, depending on the season.
If you come during a festival the flower market in Chiang Mai will be even busier than usual. Displays and bouquets are made up for all occasions – from Valentine’s Day to auspicious Buddhist holidays. By far the most impressive has to be Loy Krathong, when small floral rafts are launched into water as thanks to the river spirits. But even if you are not here during a specific festival, the stall owners will still be hard at work on altar creations for weddings or large wreaths for funerals. Although you may not be looking for a large bouquet to take home, it’s hard to resist the colours and the scent, not to mention the friendliness of the sellers. Some of the stalls will let you put together your own bunch which definitely adds to the experience, and at less than a third of the price you’d pay back home you will come back with armfuls of flowers!
Ton Lamyai Market
- Opening Hours: 7 days a week, 24 hours a day
- Location: Thanon Praisani, running alongside the river