I’m generally not a big-leaved tropicals person. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s more that I like to see them rather than grow them.
As a city dweller, I’ve never had much garden space available to me. And, well, big-leaved plants are terribly GIGANTIC. They are also tropical, which means they need a warm and humid place to overwinter indoors. My living spaces are small and dry. As a result, I’ve simply opted out of growing these plants. I oooh and awe at them while visiting greenhouses or tropical locals, but I’ve always managed to keep a mental distance from them. These are plants for looking and looking only.
And then I went to Thailand.
A lush balcony garden in Bangkok.
From the glittery, tiled temples to the lush, statuesque plants, everything in Thailand is BIG and FABULOUS. Even in a congested metropolis like Bangkok, the Thai people still manage to find the space to go big. Now there is no excuse left and I want to go big, too.
Here in Canada, I’ve made a special five hour trip by train just to see lotus in bloom at the Montreal Botanical Garden, where they have a fantastic collection. In Thailand, lotus flowers and plants are so commonplace, you very nearly become unaffected by them.
They even grow in ditches off the side of the highway. When I travel, these are the sorts of observations I like to make. These are the places I want to see. These are the experiences that make me squeal with delight and the fondest memories that come back again and again decades after the fact. This is what I want to photograph and write stories about.
What is growing in the ditches, lots, and brown spaces? I genuinely want to know. One of the most frustrating aspects of being on a media tour in Thailand was the inability to stop the bus and get off to explore in the way that I would were I in control of my trip. Alas, many of these fantastic sights had to be enjoyed at a passing glance through the window of a fast moving tourist coach while on the way to another banal tourist attraction that I didn’t care to see, had no interest in writing about, and would come to resent for all of the time it took away from the possibility of seeing something real and truly inspiring.
Give me time to spend gleefully exploring your country’s ditches, dusty roadsides, and messy, tangled lots. Visits to ostentatious, over-the-top gardens and demonstrations of opulence are wasted on me. I will choose a tour of your city’s urban brown fields or the backroads well out in the middle of nowhere over five star luxury accommodations any day. No contest.
I’m still suffering from extreme sleep deprivation and killer jet lag from hell, and have decided to roll out the Thailand trip coverage slowly with this Polaroid I took at the Mae Sa Orchid Farm just outside Chiang Mai. Thanks so much to Heather Champ who kindly gifted me with three packs of 600 film for the trip.
This was our first stop in Chiang Mai, visited directly after leaving the airport and on our way out into the countryside to have lunch and visit the Botanical Garden (which I will post about later). It was exciting to see so many orchids in one place and I was surprised by how enthusiastic I was to see more since we’d already been in Thailand for a while by this point and had seen our fair share. Orchids are everywhere in Thailand. Literally everywhere, including street plantings and highway underpasses.
Most of the orchids grown on the farm were vandas, which are extremely difficult to grow here in Toronto as they require a consistently humid environment. It was probably their extra specialness that contributed to my enthusiasm.
The farm presented each of us with a fresh orchid corsage on the way in, and I got another one when I flew Thai Airlines to Beijing. I even got one as a garnish when I ordered coconut water at in a cafe.
Today was a big day. We flew to Chiang Mai, Thailand from Bangkok and were finally able to see the mega-sized water lilies, Victoria amazonica. These are the nearly mythical water lilies that were often depicted in old illustrations carrying the weight of a small child.
I have long been fascinated by their massive, prickly pads and had them on my list of absolute must-see plants while in Thailand. I was even lucky enough to see one with a flower bud.
We’re in Thailand! We’ve been here one full day and so far it is everything I imagined it would be. There’s constant visual stimulation and the plants are incredible.
I had hoped to do a proper post with pictures by now, but this whole jet lag thing is real and it is kicking my butt really hard. Instead, I’ve been adding pictures to my Flickr account as I go, along with a few Twitter updates as wifi becomes available.
My spouse Davin is only shooting film on this trip so I don’t imagine he will be adding any images to his Flickr account, but you can follow along with his side of the adventure via Twitter and cellphone pics.
Our friend and fellow plant enthusiast Derek is also on this trip. You can check out his view of the trip from his Flickr account. It’s especially nice to be touring around with other plant geeks — our mutual excitement is contagious, although incredibly dorky.