I love uncovering activities in Thailand where there are very few farang (foreigners) making loud ridiculous comments while toting large Chang beers that match their Chang tank tops. The International Horticultural Exposition: Royal Flora Ratchaphruek was exactly one of those great finds that the masses (foreign tourists that is) hadn’t heard about. It was foreigner friendly with plenty of information in English, but the majority of the people wandering around were Thai. Just my scene.
I was super proud of Thailand while walking around the huge horticulture theme park. The first road from the entrance, and the suggested path, takes you through the gardens and exhibits of a wide variety of government related departments including the Department of Livestock Development, Rice Department, Ministry of National Resources and Environment, Land Development Department, etc. I thought this was genius because it led people to the most educational sections first; sections they may have chosen to skip otherwise.
Dave and I were particularly impressed by the exhibit from the Department of Groundwater Resources. We started by walking up a small ramp around a diorama display which depicted rain coming from clouds down a mountain, to a river, to a city, then finally to the ocean. Cute, but not incredible, was what I was thinking; but then we went inside, below the diorama to see how ground water moves through different underground materials, including bottles, cans and plastics. As we wound our way through the exhibit, we encountered various videos and displays all with English subtitles and people waiting to explain more to you in detail. I was so happy about how simple and visually pleasing the whole thing was, not to mention that they were so genius as to put it at the beginning of the suggested walking route.
A sample of one of the videos in the exhibit:[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHaanzWJm3M]
Despite being a horticulture exhibition, there was a Disney-esque feel to it in parts. The park has five mascots which meander around the park in costume for pictures. All of the descriptions were taken from their website.
“Nong Khun (Ratchaphruek flower): Grown, active, happy, energetic and confident represents the new generation environmentalist with new ideas and view points of earth and nature care.”
“Lom Bin (the wind): Playful with full of energy and active. Represent the wind and electrical power.”
“Num Sai (the clean water): Gentle, kind and cheerful. Couple together with Din Chum will provide fertility to the soil and luxuriate the crop.”
“Din Chum (the fertility soil): Strong, kind and dependable. Represent the mineral required.”
“Ai Un (the sunlight): Charm, warmth and leadership. Takes care of everyone. Brings sunshine to the world.”
Park activities included the red, yellow, orange and white global warming ferris wheel called the “Global Wheel”. We rode it for a the pricey rate of 120 Baht (4 bucks!). There were various free 3D movies shown throughout the park. We watched one at the Toyota display, which seemed interesting, but it was all in Thai. There was a bug exhibit and an evening light parade as well. All in all there were 117 attractions and gardens on the map and we were only able to fit in about twenty or so in the six hours we were there.
At night there was a light and dance show called The Miracle of Greenitude, which we couldn’t miss. We had front and center seats for this epic performance. The message of the performance was that humans are living unsustainably and are harming our planet. It started with various beautiful images projected onto a glacier-like screen. There was a brief interlude with video and pictures of the King, then planes, construction of buildings, and images of destruction of nature were shown and heard. Our mascots came out and danced in the water only to be shot at by fireworks that scared the living daylights out of me. After, the mascots in hologram form came up from the water and fought the good fight and won! The human form of the mascots did a long peppy dance and then there were fireworks and bubbles for all! Nature defeated our log cutters and developers! Woohoo! If only things were as easy as the show made it seem.
Amongst all of these educational and pro-environment messages, I was disappointed, once again, to find styrofoam plates and bowls being used in all of the food courts. It was impossible to order something to eat without ending up with a couple handfuls of plastic and styrofoam waste. I would have hoped that this would be one of the few places in Thailand that would avoid those materials. I’m in love with this country, but it’s hard to get food without accumulating a large amount of tiny plastic bags.
The situation at the park reminded me of the Loy Krathong festival I celebrated during my first stay in Thailand. It was explained to me that Loy Krathong is an opportunity for us to thank mother nature for her goodness to us and to apologize for the bad things we’ve done to her. I loved the idea behind this festival, but was infuriated to see how much litter and waste was made around the waterways that people flocked to, to celebrate. By the end of the night the lake was filled with banana and flower floats (which are biodegradable, so I’m fine with them) and modern styrofoam floats! Styrofoam for mother nature!! Oh, how my stomach turned! Then I looked to the ground to see that I couldn’t spot an inch of dirt or grass. The entire area was covered with chip bags, plastic cups, plates, silverware, bags etc. It was an environmentalist’s nightmare. Great intentions gone severely wrong. The Royal Flora expo was certainly not messy and filled with litter, but that was almost worse because nobody noticed the environmentally unkind plates they were eating off of because all of the styro waste was tucked away in trash cans.
I’ll leave you with a message from the trees in the Toyota garden: