Since today was the first day of the two day Pattaya Water Sports Festival on Jomtien Beach, with screaming fast and loud jet skis ridden by cowboys flashing through the water, Ty and I decided to get out of town and visit the Nong Nooch Tropical Botanic Garden, about 20 kms away. We hired a song thaew to take the two of us there and back and zipped along the highway to the gardens, as usual, faster than I’d like. I mused that the longer we stayed in Thailand, the more likely we were not to get out of here unscathed …
The Nong Nooch Garden and Resort (you can spend the weekend here if you so choose) are definitely on the day-tripper agenda in a big way, as testified by the enormous number of enormous tour buses disgorging crowds of visitors in the three parking lots. The first display we passed was the elephant compound, where Ty spent a moment chatting with a young elephant whose foot was injured. In this compound, which consists of nothing but a cement slab, are quite a few of the beasts, all with chains around their legs, all of whom are required to carry around tourists all day, sometimes being hit on the head with a wooden stick carried by their custodian. Neither of us can stand to see elephants being used and abused in this way so we passed quickly by into the gardens proper.
Many different kinds of gardens have been created here, from a European Garden with many large topiary bushes and cheesy classicalesque statues,
to an Ant Garden, with colourful sculptures of ants very large and small,
to a Love Garden, and a Pottery Garden in which red clay pots have been used to create archways and sculptures, as well as hold plants.
Once through the Pottery Garden, we found the orchid display, a beautifully-scented and shaded area containing many examples of one of my favorite flowers.
Interspersed with the flowers and plants are kitchy sculptures of birds, frogs, giraffe, deer, elephants and turtles, the latter holding up huge boxes of bonsai trees. In the southern section of the park is also a large lake with gigantic fish to which visitors can feed tiny tuna.
After a snack at the Nong Nooch Seafood Restaurant, where we had a lost in translation moment about Ty’s pork buns, we headed back along a series of raised metal walkways from which we could see the design of the gardens very well.
Along these are large raised plant stands containing many varieties of bonsai.
From the walkway we had a great view of the layout of the French Garden, containing hedges of topiary, boxwood and purple bougainvillea. Here are also many white chedis, what looks like a large white funerary monument, and two Thai-temple-styled viewing platforms. Beyond these are three towering pagodas marking the edge of the Palm Garden.
The Gardens also contain a mini-zoo, situated in the middle of what looks like a kid’s playland, complete with noisy games that no doubt irritate the animals. Seeing a tiger lying there with a chain around its neck, waiting for visitors to have their pictures taken with it, was too much; both of us shunned any more of the zoo and aviary and quickly headed back out to the truck for our ride home. Overall, I thought the gardens were great, especially the French garden, with its variety of colours and shapes; however, the zoo, aviary, and elephant rides are, in my view, unnecessary and abusive, with small, dark, metal cages, and dank cement enclosures, that provide nothing in the way of a decent environment for the animals.
Here is the Nong Nooch Garden website.
Here is another review of the garden.
See more pics here.