Nong Nooch Tropical Garden, Pattaya, Thailand

It may seem like a long way to go to look at plants, but with only a few adventurous crocuses attempting to lead reluctant participants in a spring parade, the Nong Nooch Tropical Garden near Pattaya, Thailand was a welcome break earlier this month. And there I was, a dazed look on my face and my mind completely boggled as I tried to comprehend one of the world’s most amazing botanical gardens. The effect wasn’t due to jet lag — with a glass or so of wine, a few in-flight movies and a decent sleep, the flight was merely time consuming.

I should have had a clue to what was awaiting me at Nong Nooch after seeing their gold medal winning display at last year’s Chelsea Flower Show, but I was unprepared for 600 magnificent acres of lush tropical gardens — and elephants. The Nong Nooch Tropical Garden was only part of a Thailand tour, with precious little time to explore, but I made the most of it by hopping on the shuttle that meanders through the gardens. It’s the most convenient option for seeing the park, and most of it can be covered in half a day, but ideally an extended stay at accommodation within the park is the way to go.

Nong Nooch is a private garden that was to have been a fruit plantation when the land was first purchased back in the fifties, but after Mrs. Nongnooch Tansacha became inspired following visits to world renowned gardens, she decided her land would be perfect for a botanical garden of her own. It opened to the public in 1980 and has deservedly become a wildly popular tourist attraction, now under the management of her son, Mr. Kampon Tansacha.

The secret of the garden’s success is its ability to offer something for everyone, but for the solely botanically minded, one of the largest selection of orchids in the country and more types of palms than I ever knew existed are there for viewing. An encyclopaedic collection of tropical plants that struggle to bloom in our living rooms and on our window sills lay before me, embraced by the fragrance of frangipani in full bloom. And for the landscape designer, an immaculate garden in the style of Versailles that had me digging around in my camera bag for another memory card.

Then it was on to what our guide called Stonehenge. Perhaps it didn’t exactly replicate the original, but it was certainly impressive, and he made a point of proudly informing his passengers that while the one in Britain has been a puzzle for eons, he knew precisely when and who built this one. And besides, compared to the bleak Salisbury plain, what ancient druid wouldn’t have preferred this lush tropical setting.

I saw as much of the sprawling gardens as possible in the time allotted — a hillside dotted with temple replicas, a huge man-made lake surrounded by wafting palms, dragon sculptures, lotus flowers and water lilies, topiary tigers, and what I can only describe as the ultimate in garden art. I love terra cotta pots — even have a group cascading down my fence, and I’ve been amused and impressed by cleverly contrived flowerpot men at many a garden show, but the sight of a towering wall, sweeping arches, and a menagerie of animals, including rearing elephants, all composed entirely of plant pots had me thinking I should free up some space for at least one moose. I duly noted that a moose was not part of the Nong Nooch display.

This was a botanical garden unlike any other in the world and a head shaking wonder that I’d have loved to spend days in, but there was yet more to see in amazing Thailand, and after feeding bananas to the real elephants, it was time to move on, earnest crocuses long forgotten.


First published April 2011 Waterloo Region Record and Guelph Mercury   
Post a Comment