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The Chiang Mai Flower Show

  • Written by Jeremy29
  • May 14th, 2007
  • 4 min read


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Before my visit to Thailand in December 2006, I began chatting on the net to Kan, a high school chemistry teacher from southern Thailand.

We arranged to meet … somewhere.

Shortly before my departure from Australia, Kan informed me that she and her colleagues would be going by tour bus to Chiang Mai, to visit a school and see the sights, and that they would arrive there the day after I landed in Bangkok. No problem, I booked a flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and managed to arrive there a couple of hours before she did.

It turned out the hotel I was staying in was across the road from her. Very convenient. The next day I went with them on the bus to various attractions and after lunch, we all went to the Chiang Mai flower show. I was the only farang on either of the two buses, so it was a memorable experience. Among them were several high-school English teachers, whose standard of English was pretty poor. No wonder Thai kids struggle. Stick, you and your fellow native English speakers are really doing an important job. Kan told me they weren’t that bad, just shy. However, once their shyness wore off their English was no better. I also later had the opportunity to sit in on one of the teacher’s English language class down south and while fun, it wasn’t very educational. Despite being the science teacher, Kan’s English was far better than any of her colleagues, which she ascribed to having recently done a masters degree in physical chemistry at Kasetsart University entirely in English.

The tour bus was a revelation. Very fancy and luxurious, much better than the average Australian tour bus. Also very noisy, everyone talking non-stop, the video blaring, and individuals chatting, joking or singing karaoke on the PA system via a microphone on a very long lead. And eating continuously as well, the food being generously shared with me.

The Chiang Mai flower show, or, to give it its official title, Royal Flora Ratchaphruek 2006, was a truly spectacular flower show. As the official website observes,

Chiang Mai is proud of its reputation as ‘The Rose of the North’, and it is only fitting that the Kingdom’s second-largest city was selected to host the biggest horticultural exposition ever seen in Southeast Asia. The Royal Flora Ratchaphruek is Chiang Mai’s tribute to King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the year of His Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, and is a three-month long event from November 1 until January 31, 2007. The colourful spectacle showcased 2,200 species of tropical flowers and 2.5 million tropical plants.

We arrived, parked in the area reserved for buses, and then I was treated to the iniquitous dual-pricing policy that seems to haunt us foreigners wherever we go. I forget how much extra I had to pay this time, but I had the satisfaction of sailing through the empty farang-only turnstile while Kan and her colleagues patiently queued up like sheep with all the other Thais. It took them 15 minutes to get through while I waited just inside the entrance.

Once in we split into little groups to explore the sites. Having some idea of how these things operate, I was not surprised to see that we wouldn’t try and systematically see everything western style. No, we would pick and choose and taste. Suited me fine, but if I had been a keen gardener it would have driven me mad. Instead I happily tagged along and experienced what they wanted to experience. There were large crowds but the site was so big (over 100 hectares) that there was plenty of room for everybody.

It was fun wandering around and looking at the displays and the flowers and the pavilions. We did the orchid pavilion which had beautiful specimens on display but which was very crowded. The garbage bins were interesting and the mascot was cute.

One of the highlights of the show was the Royal Pavilion (Haw Kham). Constructed in the Lanna (northern Thai) style to house exhibits relating to the King’s agricultural interests and projects. It has a total area of over 6,000 square meters over two floors and is part wood, part concrete. The promenade leading to the Royal Pavilion is adorned in Lanna style with 60 statues of mythical figures. A popular attraction and very beautiful. By the time we got to the country pavilions night-time had fallen. The highlight was the flower display at the Belgian pavilion while the Kenyan pavilion did a roaring trade in wooden artefacts and curios.

The day finished with the evening parade – very kitsch, which went down well with the crowds.

My Chiang Mai photos can be found here.

My Chiang Mai video clips can be seen here.

Stickman's thoughts:

I loved your definition of the noisy tour bus. Oh so true!