This photo was taken at Chinatown’s Pak Klong Flower Market, which is the largest wholesale and retail flower market in Bangkok, Thailand. The cellophane-wrapped package shown in the photo contains betel leaves, a few slices of the areca nut (a berry, commonly called the betel nut, which is the seed of the areca palm), and assorted spices such as clove, cardamom, or catechu. It is a kit of ingredients to create the infamous betel nut chew common in Southeast Asia. The nut slices will be wrapped in the betel leaves, along with the spices and slaked lime, before chewing. However, the buyer of this packaged arrangement will most likely offer it to some Buddha statue in the city or place it on a spirit house, as an offering to its spirits.
We visited Bangkok, Thailand, earlier this year and walked down a street in Chinatown where articles for daily use are made and sold in tiny shops. We looked into a shop where sheets of aluminum on the floor were being formed into large cooking pots and then stacked high on the sidewalk outside, passed a glass case of dried pig’s ears at the front of a shop selling smaller cooking pans inside, and suddenly were looking inside a shop with a puzzling assortment of merchandise. Around the inside of the shop, floor to ceiling, were cases and racks of common, yet mysterious (to Western eyes) goods. Small areas of the shop were devoted to musical instruments, which seemed to be the real purpose of the shop.
Two men were hard at work in the narrow shop. A seated man near the back was working with small pieces of wood, putting them together in his hands like a puzzle, while the floor around his bare feet was covered in small wooden shapes. As we looked at our pictures when we got home, we recognized the bits of wood as part of the instruments hanging on the wall, the Chinese string instrument erhu. Other names for this solo instrument are the Chinese violin, the Chinese two-stringed fiddle, and the spike fiddle.
The seated man in the front of the shop was working on something that was hidden by the stool in front of him. When we expressed interest in the simple bamboo flutes for sale in a rack near the front, he immediately demonstrated how to play them, entertaining us with a lovely tune.
Harmony is a fundamental principle in traditional Chinese culture. The Chinese character for harmony (hé) is made up of two characters, of which one character was originally derived from yuè, the name of an ancient Chinese flute-like instrument. Our flute player was also demonstrating harmony.
These photos were taken on March 3, 2017. Specs for the second photo are:
The Pak Klong flower market is the largest wholesale and retail flower market in Bangkok, Thailand. Upon entering, the overwhelming color is yellow.
Strong young men push carts stacked high with bags of yellow flower heads and petals through the aisles, delivering fresh blossoms to be transformed into new floral creations and removing these arrangements to be delivered to retail establishments along the sidewalks.
Bags of yellow flowers parts and garlands hang from wires surrounding the individual vendor stalls.
A large amount of these flowers are used to make arrangements to offer to the many Buddha statues in the city, as well as to place on numerous spirit houses.