Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Chiangmai Royal Flora Expo

I visited the Royal Flora Expo in Chiangmai a few days after it opened and was greatly impressed by the effort put into the show by the organisers. Foreign visitors were greatly outnumbered by Thais, who came by the busload from all over Thailand. The huge showground is about half and hour's drive from the city and one can only approach it by public transportation. It was a good idea to keep private cars away. The parking area was big enough for hundreds of buses and taxis but it would have been impossible to accommodate private cars. The grounds had been carefully landscaped, with lakes, hills and manicured lawns. Many of the displays were put up by corporations, countries and individual exhibitors.

Malaysia make a good effort with a traditional Malay house within a lush tropical garden. The crowd appreciated this and queued up to enter. The Netherlands put up a brave show with beds of tulips that faded rather quickly in the dry weather and had to be replaced overnight. India put up a minimalist walled garden with a single Bodh (Ficus religiosa) sapling in the centre, accompanied by a prominent signboard explaining at great length the philosophical significance of the bodh tree. Spain also made a minimalist garden, but with columnar evergreen conifers making a backdrop for a small stage on which a flamenco dancer was scheduled to perform. We did not wait for the show but I was pretty sure Spain's flamenco garden would win the popularity prize. Among the indoor displays, Japan and Taiwan were impressive, the former with a Japanese landscaped garden and the latter with waves of Phalaenopsis orchids against rolling hills. Japanese gardens always look good, but for attractive innovation, my vote goes to Taiwan.

While in Chiangmai, do not forget to visit the huge flower market in town. The market houses hundreds of plant retail outlets and looks like a permanent floral expo.

The show will last three months and exhibits and themes will change from week to week. I flew from KL to Chiangmai direct, to avoid a time-wasting stopover in Bangkok Airport.

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