|At the entrance of "the bromeliad garden"
Last April, on our first trip to Pattaya, “the Don, “our venerable trip leader and guide, mentioned several times that if we ever found the time that we should schedule a visit out to a botanical garden that he had passed by several times over the years on his many bike trips out into the Thai countryside. Not being much of a “plant guy,” (as he says) he never bothered to venture past the gates; however, to me he offered this phrase a time or two, “But I know how much you love nature and plants and flowers and all, so maybe you’d like to make the trip and check it out?”
The only thing about going out there that gave me any pause at all is when he mentioned that it was more than a few kilometers out (like 15 or 20); and, he continued, based on my scooter driving rate of travel (as compared to his Speedy Gonzales style) he estimated that it would take us more than 30 minutes to get out there.
We never did make it out to “the gardens” in April. The logistics of having along from the Philippines one of my girls complicated scooter travel to say the least. It wouldn’t have been a problem if three on a bike was legal (although the Thais do it like crazy), but as a foreigner getting caught with the extra passenger is a sure fire fine; not a very hefty one, but who needs the hassle? Anyway, we knew we were going to return in June so we put off the botanical visit until then.
For me, chasing after “Don the bike master” on a scooter always means a heavy dose of strain on top of a full measure of anxiety. I know this to be true based on what happened last April, when after following him around Pattaya for a couple hours on our quest for Thai drivers’ licenses; we stopped in at a doctor’s office for a quickie physical. Normally, my BP is around 110/70, but not that time. I was aghast to see it up at 180/90! Being in a constant state of dread will do that to you.
|I could have sat right here all day
|I had no idea that bromeliad species got THIS big
|I actually have several of these at home, but they don't look THIS good.
Luckily we hit plenty of red lights and so my arm got plenty of rest and mostly behaved. But we did have another unscheduled stop that didn’t involve traffic at a place that Don had warned us of beforehand. For the most part the Thai police don't bother with stopping tourists tooling around on scooters within Pattaya proper, but they obviously have a policy to stop ALL foreigners on bikes outside of the city. Three or four miles down Sukhumvit we could see a traffic light in the near distance; it looked like we would easily make it through on green, but then a frantically gesturing policeman stepped out, pointing at us as if shooting lightning bolts from his index finger before raising both arms high in the international signal to STOP.
There were three policemen manning the checkpoint. One was already questioning and checking the documents of a hapless Thai biker. Don and I pulled off the shoulder to a spot right in front of the police station and let the girls off. We joked and laughed that what Don had predicted had actually happened; he wasn't exactly omniscient though; he’s been stopped at that spot countless times over the years. The cop assigned to us kept a stern demeanor, probably expecting us to not have drivers licenses. He almost seemed shocked (or disappointed perhaps) when we pulled ours out and merrily handed them over for his inspection. Once he saw we were good to go his attitude suddenly switched over to smiling friendliness. Don pulled out his tourist map and showed him where we were headed. The now affable policeman began to try to speak Thai to our ladies and he seemed surprised yet again learning that they were from the Philippines. So we got him twice in the same stop--hah! He nodded a thank you and pointed us back out to the road, dismissing us to continue our journey. We thanked all of them with Don giving them a chuckling “See you again, probably SOON!” They didn’t understand us, but we laughed at the joke just the same. We gave them a wave and a hardy hi-ho and sped away on down the road.
|I have these but have never seen the flowers. Look carefully in the center.
|Then again, is that tiny flower from the bromeliad, or is the bromeliad actually a host plant for the tinier plant?
|Photography is a dream in that place. No matter where you aim there is a sublime shot.
Finally, we got to the end of that endless approach avenue, came to another intersection and following the sign turned right for another couple hundred meters to the actual park gate. From there, looking into the park, the place seems very understated; at that point I really wasn’t expecting much. Boy did I soon have another thing coming.
|Look how they arrange the individual bromeliads to form a larger mural of plants.
We drove up the lane and into the park and soon came upon a small manmade lake on the right where we saw a dozen bikes like ours parked. We pulled in to park in line with them and thus started our adventure in Nong Nooch.
|You'd never get away with this back in the states these days. Cute.
|These look African. They look aged, as if imported. Interesting to see in Thailand.
Not realizing the full extent of Nong Nooch, we browsed and enjoyed for almost an hour the relatively tiny bromeliad garden. I say relatively tiny even although at the time I didn't think so until I saw how massive the rest of the park is--it's gigantic.
I was fascinated with the way the
gardeners took these hardy plants potted in tiny black plastic bags and
arranged them in holders on the garden walls to form some of the most amazing
mural patterns using the varying foliage colors of the various
bromeliad species. I’ve never seen anything like it. Many hours later, almost a half hour after the park "officially" closed, we drove back toward the gate and I glanced over to see a sign on the frontage wall. "Bromeliad Garden," was on the sign. "See! I told you so!" I called over my shoulder to my wife, pointing at the sign as we sped past it almost out the gate.
|This plant is about five feet across and three feet high. Gorgeous
|Its in the details. Wow!