Flowers are a symbol of love, luck and compassion especially in Thailand. In Thai Buddhist culture, flowers have a great impact and they are often given as offerings or kept for good luck. In temples flowers are placed as offerings on shrines, or are given to special guests as a sign of respect. When getting married a special kind of floral garland is used, which is called a Phuang malai.
They are one of the most beautiful and artistic creations in Thailand. The making of these garlands range from simple to highly complex arrangements and vary in size and price. Usually various seasonal flower combinations are used to craft the perfect Phuang malai based on the floral artist’s imagination. Jasmine and rose buds are commonly used in a malai. There is no written historical evidence on who first created the phuang malai. The first record of phuang malai was found during the reign of King Rama V.
Malais being strung during our walk through the backstreets of Bangrak.
There are different kinds of malai patterns. Creature malai resembles animals in which flowers are arranged into animal shapes such as mice, rabbits, squirrels and gibbons. Chained malai is a series of rounded malais connected together which resemble a chain. There is also braided malai where two rounded malai are connected together, each end is decorated with pine-shaped malai. Vine malai is a series of semicircular malais arranged in a vine shape. A garland is a laced malai when silver and golden threads are inside and outside the wreath. A special malai is made with orchids which means only the flowers from an orchid are used to create the garland.
Malais abound as we tour the streets of the Old City.
In Thai culture, the malai is commonly used as an offering, a gift or souvenir. Phuang malai can be classified into three categories by use. 1. Malai Chai Deaw- an offering to show respect at a shrine or temple. 2. Malai song chai- usually draped around a person’s neck to show importance.
Phuang Malai represents a beautiful blend of ancient and modern traditions within Thai culture with people today continuing to place a high value on them during Thai weddings and other cultural functions.