Thai Market Flowers – A Blooming Business
I’ve spent a large part of the past week editing some of my earlier posts. While reading one, I noticed it had promised an update about Wilai’s business selling Thai market flowers. That sent me scurrying to this site’s Category Index to search for the last relevant post indexed there. The entry, Selling Thai Flower Garlands and Posies at the Local Market was dated July 2015. Today, I intend following that promise through, albeit, somewhat late.
Thai Market Flowers – Big Efforts and Small Rewards
The photograph shows Thai market flowers on sale in Sang Khom, Udon Thani Province. It looks an easy life sat waiting for customers to arrive to add more coin to the kitty. That statement is far from the truth; long hours with a small reward would be a more accurate evaluation.
The Buddhist Day market in Sang Khom happens twice a month, and the flower sellers attract many customers. More so, 6 am to 8 am when a good deal of locals buy floral garlands and flower posies to take to the temple. After midday, any remaining flowers become more challenging to sell.
The early morning rush of dedicated temple go-ers influences how well the day will go for each flower stall vendor. The weather will play a big part too. If there’s heavy rain when the market opens, customer numbers will be lower. In turn, that can mean a long day in dismal conditions with leftover flowers at its end.
Wilai’s run-up to market day starts four days prior.
Getting Ready For Market Day
A trip to Udon Thani flower market is first on the list of things-to-do. The timing of the car ride to the city is subject to what point in time the market flowers arrive by train, truck and bus from Bangkok and wherever. That will be either late evening or in the early hours of the morning. Regardless, the journey there, the flower transaction and return home will consume 4-5 hours.
Some flowers will be acquired locally – nearby towns, village gardens and Wilai’s flower beds and shrubs – those dealings and deeds help keep costs lower. These trades and exchanges happen throughout the three-day run-up to market day and consume valuable flower making time.
Flower garlands (phuang malai) are the first and most time-consuming items produced. Flower posies, small bouquets and leafed single flowers are crafted last, usually in the evening before market day. Paid help will be at hand, but their skills, availability and work ability will need juggling according to time scales. The flower garlands are the central focal point of each flower stall.
The three-days of production each run from about 7 am to 9 pm. The hired hands (usually family) would be for limited periods throughout with at times, no help on call. In-between, Wilai’s daily routine runs in tandem; Food trips, household chores, caring for five dogs and whoever and whatever needs to be addressed or completed. Plus, there’s oodles of noodles and som tum to consume.
Final Preparations For Market Day
The last day of the three can be a rush, flap and frenzy. Thankfully nowadays, for Wilai, those days are rare. Over the past couple of years, she has fine-tuned the art of accepting that she can only get so much done with the resources she has. In the past, she fretted about not having enough flowers to sell. Now she happily goes to the market with what she’s got. That’s a positive thing.
The only negative about Wilai’s flower business is the physical effect the close-up work has had on her eyesight. After 7 years of finicky flower work, she now has to wear glasses for close-at-hand tasks. Still, I think she looks cute.
Once the flower garlands, posies, bouquets and single flowers are complete, it’s time for sleep in preparation for a 4 am wake-up call. An alarm that signals another market day has arrived. After a coffee, shower and prayers to Buddha, all that’s left to do is load the last bits and pieces onto the flower-mobile.
Wilai will hope her prayers bear merit, and it will be a lucky, rain-free day at the market. The ride to the market takes ten minutes or so.
Thai Market Flowers – The Big Day Has Arrived
If all goes well, Wilai will have sold her Thai market flowers by midday. There are about ten flower vendors at the market, and Wilai is the longest-serving flower seller among them. She has a good customer base. When finished, she will help her niece and some of the other vendors with their business needs. Then Wilai will pack her buckets and icebox back onto the flower-mobile and head home around 2-3 pm.
All-in-all, after deducting gasoline, cost of flowers and hired hands wages, Wilai will have about 1,800 THB ($57 US) leftover. That’s for four days of work. Not colossal money but more significant gains drop anchor during the Loi Krathong Festival, Valentine’s Day and several other Buddhist days throughout the year. Add-on, weddings, funerals, local elections and goodwill events, and there is extra income to earn most months.
Selling flowers is a huge business in the Land of Smiles but do that many people realize the amount of work and effort involved getting the flower garlands to the market, traffic lights or wherever? I think not.
Spare a thought for the flower vendor next time you see one.