Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sunday in the Market with Noi

Through most of my adult life, I have ascribed certain rituals to Sunday, making it a special day, an unusual day, a day of treats not enjoyed on other days. So it seemed fitting that today, Sunday in Bangkok, we enroll in Peninsula Academy Flower Arranging Class to celebrate not only the day, but our arrival last night at one of the world's most glam hotels.

For the un-enlightened, each Peninsula Hotel around the world offers culture and enrichment classes themed to the local environment. Each offers an experience with an expert that cannot be enjoyed unless you are a guest of the hotel and sign up in advance. Fees vary with the class and the location.

Today's class was about $100 per person and simply the best value for money experience available in travel. Neither Sarah nor I will ever look at a flower the same way, we've had an incredible adventure and even learned some tricks to bring home and test and twist into an American lifestyle. We may not have lotus leaves at home, but I have heaps of calico fabric which I can cut and wrap for a different but interesting look. The best part of seeing an idea, is translating it into something you can make your own.

Class began at 9AM. We stuffed ourselves at the breakfast buffet-- a gorgeous treat in its own right-- and then waddled off behind Noi, the head florist, and assorted Peninsula Academy helpers. We were taken a the hotel's custom van to a site across the river where the Pak-Klong Talad flower market lines two sides of a street and fills many alleys.

This market is open 24/7 and is most busy from 7-10pm when new shipments arrive and the professionals do their shopping. Noi explained that in the evening, the market is twice as large as what we are seeing, much more hectic, and has all sorts of flowers and produce spilling into the streets and walkways.

With Noi as our guide, we prowled around and explored; we learned that flowers from Holland cost too much here, so imported flowers come from China-- which Noi says provides the same quality as Holland. (Note to the world.)

Because he had already bought flwoers for our class, all we did was look, touch and gawk. Between the colors, the prices (low everyday prices!) and the characters in the market-- why is that little girl trying to beat up a kitten with a stick?-- we were mesmerized. We both decided to move to Bangkok, live in Peter Greenberg's house here and become the local version of Jeff Leatham, the Four Seasons' Hotel's Creative Director, the man who changed the face of floral decor for all the world. I am certain Peter will be delighted I want to move into his house.

Back in the van, were were given cold, lemongrass scented towels and cold water as we headed back to The Pen. Then we went into the treehouse alongside the river for class and learned how to do all sorts of things to lotus flowers. This is a sexual awareness class as the lotus flower must be peeled back in the same way as a man I once knew, and the same motions in the wrist make flower arranging go so much more quickly.

After many different instructions, and after the pineapple and banana smoothie was served, we tied on our aprons and set to work creating our own arrangements. Sarah was the star of the class, but I flunked as my styrofoam was showing. I guess I willl never make it as a petal pusher in Old Bangkok.

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