The floating market of Damnoen Saduak, Thailand

Damnoen saduak on a mapWhen evoking Thailand, there are images that immediately come to mind: the sparkling golden temples and statues, the turquoise of the beautiful southern beaches and the thousand colors of the traditional floating markets. I have long dreamed of discovering this rally of long and narrow boats overflowing with colors of the fruit and flowers. As you apprehend a floating market, you become lost in a checkering of channels, on board a sampan and living from within the swarming atmosphere of life, flavors and scents.

Although increasingly rare in the capital, the floating markets are still very popular in the country. Despite the fact that the majority are artificially recreated for tourism needs, the market of Damnoen Saduak is well-known to have preserved its authenticity and remains today one of the most famous floating markets of Thailand.

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The Pak Khlong Talaat market, Bangkok

In the early hours of the day, I lost myself on the edge of Chao Phraya, on the streets of Pak Khlong Market, the largest market in Bangkok. As the first rays of sun appear, the streets slowly come alive and exciting smells begin to awaken the olfactory senses of sleepy visitors.

Buds of jasmine, lotus, tuberoses, roses and bougainvillea mingle with mountains of orchids, towers of frangipanis and baskets of carnations. As I navigate the array of flowers, soaking in their thousand perfume scents, I see a woman sitting on a small stool wearing a colorful tight-fitting apron, her hands dancing with graceful dexterity as she prepares flower necklaces, baskets and various offerings. I do not know where to turn; everything is so beautiful, everything smells so good, there is an oasis of colors, and an overpowering fragrance that only such a unique myriad of smells entwined together can create.

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Ylang ylang, the greatest of Bali’s flowers

Popular small island in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali abounds with a variety of flowers and large plants. The Balinese place a unique emphasis on flowers and perfumes, which punctuate their lives. But the scent that is probably the most cherished among the Balinese is ‘Sandat’, which is more commonly known as ylang ylang. Ylang ylang is a flagship ingredient in perfumes due to its sweet and exotic scent. At the beginning of October, I arrived in Bali to discover more about this small fragrant flower.

The ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) is a tree from the Annonaceae family and is native to Southeast Asia. Although within Balinese culture these trees are often maintained at a height of 2-3 meters, they can reach 30 meters in their natural habitat. The flowers, shaped like disheveled stars, start out a soft greenish color before maturing to a bright yellow. The trees blossom year round but most abundantly during warm and humid seasons.

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