An Orchid Thief’s Trip to Thailand, and New York

Photo, courtesy, New York Botanic Garden

Any traveler who has been to Thailand has knows that orchids — those gorgeous, slightly dangerous looking blossoms — are intricately intertwined in any journey to the kingdom.

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In Chiang Mai there is a cluster of four farms all near each other in the Mae Rim district. The Sai Nam Phueng Farm is Chiang Mai’s largest orchid farm and there's also Mae Rim Orchid, Suan Bua Mae Sa and Bai Orchid & Butterfly Farm.

On my most recent visit I made a pilgrimage to the Bai Orchid & Butterfly Farm (3/1 Moo 7, Samoeng Rd; 66/85-329-9588), pausing to inspect the intricacies of pattern, color and scent that the orchids offered — sometimes beneath the fluttering wings of a monarch butterfly or two.

I also came away with orchid perfume, a sweet scent in a small fuchsia bottle that always reminds me of Thailand and that wonderful purple-pink color you see everywhere and of the feeling of fragile and flamboyant beauty that these plants (and Thailand itself) embody. The perfume is almost too sweet to actually wear, but opening the bottle and taking a deep breath brings the experience back in a powerful olfactory moment.

If you can't get to Thailand, but are headed to New York City, the New York Botanical Garden (2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx; 718-817-8700) will be hosting a Thai orchid exhibition opening this week that will bring these beauties to New York City.

“The Orchid Show: Thailand” is an homage to the more than 1,200 native orchid species from the Kingdom of Thailand. From February 18 through April 9, 2017, the Orchid Show will feature thousands of species orchids in a classic Thai garden setting. The grand centerpiece of the design will be the facade of a sala, a traditional pavilion used for shade and relaxation, with a signature sweeping gabled roofline filled with orchids.

The NYBG's Enid A. Haupt Conservatory (that exquisite glass house from New York's Gilded Age) will feature the Thai garden tradition of mai dat, in which trees and shrubs are pruned and trained over time to form fanciful shapes. The Garden's Hudson Garden Grill will also be featuring Thai specialties and it's a safe bet the tables will be graced with orchids as well.

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