Royal Flora with a French and a Scottsman

Trip Start Jul 20, 2006
Trip End May 10, 2007

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Friday, January 26, 2007

It was time to take a visit to the Royal Flora Expo - after all it is on my front doorstep and I had not been since it opened in November and it was about to close in 5 days. I was invited to join two photographers: Alan from Scotland and  Richard from France. It was a visual experience that ended in this journalistic piece (which will soon be published online) and some fascinating photos by yours truly.

Royal Flora
A Flowering Exhibit in Honor of His Majesty The King
Or Just another Disneyland- like Tourist Attraction?

Royal Flora Ratchaphruek is a grandiose horticulture exhibit in Chiang Mai, Thailand and of the nearly 80-hectare exhibition, the most beautiful elements are those on a smaller scale: moss growing on the trees in the tropical dome, the bees pollinating in the red leafed flowers, and the mist from the waterfall spraying adjacent violet colored orchids.
The world class horticulture event hosts 2.5 million plants of 2,200 species and weighs in at a total cost of two billion Thai bhat. At the outset of the exhibition over 2,000,000 million visitors from all over the world attended the 92-day exhibition.

Running from 1 November 2006 to January 31, 2007 Royal Flora has been organized for the festive celebrations to mark the most auspicious occasions of the 60th anniversary or the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of His Majesty's Accession to the Throne in 2006 and the 80th Birthday of His Majesty the King of Thailand in 2007.
Perfectly manicured lawns and beds of colorful flowers create an appeasing setting tainted by sausage stands and ice cream vendors. In all its glory, it reminds me of Orlando Florida's Epcot Center with American fast food stands scattered throughout and trams of tourists being hoarded through the park. 
However, highlights include the delicate orchid pavilion creating a sea of colors ranging from orange, to purple and pink bringing reminders of shades of a sun setting sky. This magnificent and unprecedented display of orchids showcases over 50,000 orchid plants representing nearly 10,000 different native species and hybrid varieties.
International gardens, with displays from countries including Bhutan, where prayer flags blow in the wind and the Netherlands, where one can step into oversized wooden clogs in front of a windmill in a sea of tulips. Other notable participating countries include: Vietnam, Nepal, Pakistan, Brunei, Turkey, Spain, Belgium, Mauritania, Kenya, Nigeria, Gabon, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Burundi, Qatar, Iran, Yemen, and Trinidad & Tobago.

The Gardens for The King's "Path of Wisdom" are an example of His Majesty the King's care and concern for the lives of the Thai people, combined with His intimate knowledge of agriculture which has resulted in the introduction and successful implementation of thousands of sustainable Royal agricultural Projects. The Gardens for The King also boast Corporate Gardens with sponsorships from 80 domestic and international companies.
As night falls at Royal Flora firework displays fill the air as a nighttime spectacle parades through the park. The Electrical Parade is divided into seven parts, comprising Royal Flora Ratchaphruek 2006, Literary Epics, Queen of Flora, Magic of Plants, Love for Humanity, and The Royal Father of all Thais and International Unity. 
So, now what, the 92-days has passed and what will become of all that Royal Flora once was? The entire project is meant to be handed over to the current government, with no foreseeable practical plan for its future upkeep. Could the billions of bhat spent on the exhibit have been better spent on social issues Thai society is plagued by, such as educational infrastructure or disaster preparedness? There is no doubt that Royal Flora helped tourism blossom in Chiang Mai for three months. But, was this simply another Disneyland-like tourist attraction or was it something that made Thailand stand out amongst the other flowers?
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