Discovering Palm Sugar Production in Bangkok: Ish Meets Thailand

While on a day trip to the Bangkok Floating Markets, my friends and I were taken to a short pit stop at a roadside location where one can discover the process of making palm sugar. To be more accurate, it’s a place where tourists can be seduced into buying various forms of coconut products ranging from oils, soaps, kitchenware and decorative items.

It’s not a factory by any means. It’s a parking lot for tour vans that’s surrounded by souvenir shops. There’s just a small bowl of the finished palm sugar on display. We were each given a chance to taste a piece of the hardened sugar and were left to move on to explore by ourselves.

On the side, there are a few stations set up to show you the essential steps in the production of palm sugar and various other products that can be derived from the coconut tree.

The first thing I noticed was a small contraption where one can try to manually scrape coconut meat out from the shell. Some Westerners seemed quite amused and eager to do this. I wasn’t as impressed since I see this all the time in the supermarkets. Nowadays we do this with the electric machines so it was really kind of meh for me.

Man scraping coconut off the husk

A few steps away, a bored woman is cooking up some extracted coconut milk to produce coconut oil. Once the coconut milk is cooked down, she will be left with a clear oil and bits of brown coconut pieces which we call “latik” in the Philippines. It’s the stuff that we put on top of rice cakes like biko and other similar “kakanin.”

Woman cooking up some coconut milk to extract oil

Further back. a few large woks are boiling away to demonstrate essential parts of the process of making palm sugar. Nobody was really explaining anything but it appears that they heat up the nectar from the coconut flowers until the liquid forms into crystals. Once it cools, this solidifies into palm sugar.

Woks filled with coconut flower nectar getting boiled into palm sugar

That’s pretty much the educational part of the tour but I suppose this would be more interesting to someone who has not lived in the tropics. As for me, even though I grew up in the city, these are things that I saw around me while I was growing up. Nevertheless, younger city folk in Manila (millennials) who now live a high tech life would probably find these things interesting as well.

Like I said, the place is mostly meant to attract buyers for the various kinds of coconut products that are being peddled by locals. It’s a great place to get coconut oils, soap and other organically produced items. However, I would not necessarily say that the items are cheap. Touristy location = tourist prices.

Various kitchenware and decorative items made from coconuts


Oil, soap and various other coconut products

On the other side of the parking lot, there’s a small patch of orchids that they call an orchid farm. They are beautiful but it’s not really an extensive collection. Also, I doubt many people would be looking to buy any plants if they are in Thailand on a holiday. Nevertheless, they are lovely to look at.

Overall, we were only really allowed to be there for half an hour or so. Since it was only a pit stop, being able to see something other than toilets and a convenience store was a good thing.

Stay tuned for my post about the actual Floating Market tour and why I wasn’t too amused by it. Meanwhile, read about the parts of my Thailand trip that I did enjoy:

Read more: Royal Grand Palace and Bangkok Temple Tour: Ish Meets Thailand