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Phuang Malai (Jasmine Garland)
Written by Wadee Kheourai   
Friday, 09 February 2007 21:11

Thais have unique ways of arranging flowers and using them in decorations, which are different from other places. Thai garlands called "Phuang Malai". Flower arranging became increasing popular during the reign of King Rama V. The ladies of the Court spent many hours in arranging flowers. Each lady taught her own designs to her ladies - in - waiting, and to the young girls who lived in the palace and received their "finishing school" education under the patronage of the Royal ladies. Until recent years, vendors usually sat in front of the entrance of themarket and some vendors travelled up and down the lanes in Bangkok and in some big cities, balancing a woven tray filled with colorful filled with colorful garlands on top of their heads. Calling "Phuang Malai, Phuang Malai" as they went, one needed to go only to her/his front gate to buy the fresh garlands. A lovely new garland would be given to the spirit house or to be placed reverently at the base of the Buddha images in the family shrine.

The most common way of making "Phuang Malai" is by threading the variety of petals and flowers on a cord with the use of a huge needle. Garlands can vary widely in design as the whims of the "manufactures" cause them to mix and match - colours and flowers.

The type of garland most commonly given to greet arrivals, or to farewell friends and relatives, are those with two strands of flowers connected by a length of ribbon with bows or rosetters attaching the ribbon to the flowers. These are called "Uba". This type of long garland is seen at shrines or statues such as at the shrine of Thao Maha Phrom on the corner of Hyatt Erawan Hotel. It has many designs but the similarity lies in the long length, resembling a chain or necklace.

Vendors selling a variety of flower garlands are always found near temples, shrines, statues or even near street intersections. A mother and small children sit while they busily string the garlands. Young and old become proficient at their work.

Garlands are presented and worn at many festive and happy occasions, such as graduations, birthdays and weddings, for good luck. It is customary in Thailand to have a portrait of a deceased person displayed near the urn or coffin. A lovely flower garland with a black ribbon is placed at their base as a mark of respect and final farewell.

The honored personage who performs the ribbon cutting ceremony of "grand opening" is presented, on arrival with a lovely flower garland most often the shorter, bracelet design.

Wherever and whenever their Majesties go - as well as other members of the Royal Family - throngs of people line the way with flower garlands to present to them, as a token of their love and respect.


Information from: "Thai Studies Through Games" Book 2 by Assist. Prof. Wadee Kheourai.
Pictures copyright: Panrit "Gor" Daoruang.