Once a major route connecting Bangkok and Chachoengsao during the reign of King Rama V, the old waterside community of Hua Takhe Market rises and shines again with the "Save The Date I RakDok Floral Week(s)" festival that runs until Aug 4.
Packed with art galleries, gift shops, restaurants and chic cafe-guesthouses, this narrow residential alley boasts a dozen vibrant flower installations that combine local wisdom and modern flower arrangement techniques to evoke memories of childhood and bring colours to life.
Chanyawat 'Joe' Panjaphakdee, founder of Rainforest the Wedding.
It's the brainchild of renowned wedding organiser Chanyawat "Joe" Panjaphakdee and his team from Rainforest the Wedding, who in 2017 was behind Pak Klong Talat's "Flowers For Dad", a mourning collaboration of flower vendors and farmers around the country to craft a floral tribute to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Through the Rainforest Channel on YouTube, Chanyawat also produces RakDok, an online edutainment programme focusing on everything about blooms.
"Initially, I came here to decorate the newly-opened coffee shop of my friend. Then I roamed around the community and fell in love with its nostalgic vibe. Here, local villagers still keep a way of simple life. This sparked an idea to share memories of my childhood with young generations who were born in the digital era," Chanyawat said.
Be A Marigold.
"Aiming to promote this market, I set up several photogenic corners so that visitors can enjoy taking photos and post them on social networks. Meanwhile, I want to help flower farmers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Flower prices have dropped from 170-180 baht per bouquet to 30 baht per kilo."
To jazz up this residential area, Chanyawat has used almost one tonne of fresh statice, mini statice and gypsophila million stars as well as artificial blossoms from the Rainforest's warehouse as the main materials.
Walking along Klong Prawet Burirom, a sightseeing tour can start at Rong Rahat gallery — a former waterwheel factory — where people are greeted by four astonishing floral artworks. At the entrance of this two-storey wooden house, visitors walk past DokRak-RakDok, a layered curtain of spray-painted artificial crown flowers, which symbolises a stream of lives.
274 Colour Palette.
The middle of the ground floor is home to How U Remind Me?, where an old wooden boat floats on a blooming canal full of purple statice blossoms, in which visitors can sit and imagine they're cruising back to beautiful bygone days.
"Our work is about the community. Visitors will see a boat floating in a flower canal that is inspired by the Prawet Burirom and Hua Takhe canals. The types of blossom will also alternate like a flower shop," Chanyawat said.
"Thailand is one of the world's largest flower sources but Thais often use flowers for praying. In restaurants, they're only minor components for decorating dishes, so I want to highlight their functions. This event becomes space for my staff to show creativity."
How U Remind Me?
Behind the floral canal is a long wooden table that showcases Fifty Shades Of Plant. Using spray paint to create a gradient effect, a collection of plastic bottles are turned into vivid vases containing several kinds of fresh, dry and artificial flowers and leaves. During the weekend, the gallery also allocates space to the Rak Dok Market, where Chanyawat offers several kinds of blossoms from local farms.
"With eco-friendly designs, we've modified what we've had in our warehouse as well as handicrafts from local shops. For example, some handcrafted fish traps, I've asked local villagers to use pastel-shaded nets instead of black ones. Just by adding colours to old materials, they become new," Chanyawat said.
"We avoid single-use plastics and use welded wire mesh in arranging flowers and plants so that they can last for one month. They will be withered and dry but remain beautiful."
Fifty Shades Of Plant.
At Press cafe devotes its see-through folding doors to Miscellaneous Of Surface. Inspired by a display of artwork in the cafe, it's a mixture of woodblock prints and different blossoms. Next door, a tree shop sets up a small corner for Colours, which showcases vibrant spray-painted artificial plants in orange, yellow, purple, pink and turquoise.
The front of a fishing tool shop is home to a mixed-media installation called Be A Marigold. It features five towering traditional fish traps crafted from red, blue and green nets and adorned with marigolds to lure crowds of tourists rather than fish. A fish trap and marigold symbolise wealth and prosperity in Thai culture.
Opposite the 274 Bed and Brews cafe and guesthouse run by famous Thai-Scottish actor Ray MacDonald, visitors can admire and enjoy taking selfies with the 274 Colour Palette, where a grouping of 274 artificial flowers and coloured knitting wools are suspended from the ceiling like colour drops.
The highlight is hidden in the brand-new Cafe aux Fleurs. Decorated with vintage-style furniture and paintings, Cafe Aux Florish-Fleur is a big branch of pink Vanda orchids stretching out of an old cabinet on the ground floor, while the terrace on the second floor is ensconced in a forest of bougainvilleas that create a relaxing yet elegant atmosphere.
This coffee house is operated by veteran steward Nakrob Sangatu and his family, who create a unique selection of specially tailored drinks with homemade food and sweets, perfect for everyone to take a break and enjoy the slow life.
The Luang Phrot-Tan Liam Community Book House shares some space with the art installation called Wavelets. Implied by its name, it features flowerlike glass plates and fabric water hyacinths in different shades, hanging from the ceiling.
How To Hug.
Situated at the end of the alley, the guesthouse-eatery Si Yak Hua Takhe (Hua Takhe Intersection) transforms a traditional wooden boat into a floating botanical garden called How To Hug. Inside, it's adorned with a bed and fur carpets with hundreds of colourful fresh flowers and plants to embrace visitors during a dreamy cruise.
"Thailand's flower markets have been driven by wedding ceremonies, so I wanted to jump out of a frame. My duty is to make the dreams of grooms and brides to come true and for their guests to appreciate. But this is open space for everyone to come and admire my work. I've adopted photography techniques in arranging flowers to create different dimensions, perfect for everyone to enjoy taking photos," Chanyawat said.
Cafe Aux Florish-Fleur.
The "Save the Date I RakDok Floral Week(s)" festival is on view until Aug 4 at the Hua Takhe community on Lat Krabang 17. Open daily from 10am to 6pm. Information available at facebook.com/RakDokChannel and facebook.com/LoveHuatakhe.