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If you have the chance to visit Thailand, the beguiling orchid with is myriad forms is one aspect of the Orient's exotic charm not to be missed, and never to be forgotten.
Whilst "Orchid mania" was sweeping across Europe and later America during the 19th century, Thailand remain unaffected by the craze.
Despite the fact that Thailand is the home of over a thousand orchid species growing wild, the Thais didn't regard the orchids as being particularly special more than other native flowers. In fact Thais preferred the flowers of temperate Europe, regarding them as exotic when compares to their home grown orchid. Even a Thai King of that time, King Rama V, who reigned from 1868 to 1910 and regarded European tastes and fashions with avid interest, was very partial to pink roses rather than common garden orchids.
In Thailand's mountainous North, where more orchids can be found than anywhere else in the Kingdom, orchids were once worn as adornment for the hair. Down to this day the expression "euang neua", or northern orchid, refers to inexperienced Northern Thai girls who are taken in by smooth talking young men from Bangkok.
In the cool North of Thailand a stunning variety of wild and domestic orchids can be found tucked away throughout the hills and valleys. As you drive north toward the northern capital Chiang Mai visiting orchid farms along the highway is an opportunity not to be missed. The orchids are kept under netting stretched across a framework, which filters the strong Thai sunshine down to a cool dappled shade. This creates a suitably placid environment for the orchids and a pleasant place for visitors to stroll admiring the spectacular catch your eye and display. Enchanting blooms invite you to pause for a while and breathe in the full wonder of their pyrotechnic magic. Butterflies released into some enclosures enhance and animate the orchids natural splendor.
If you would like to personally experience the discovery of wild orchids in their natural habitat, you'll need to make a bit more effort. Deforestation has eaten away at the variety of wild orchids to be found in nature. There is a speculation amongst orchid experts that as yet undiscovered orchids are, right now, threatened with extinction. Although it is illegal to trade in Thai orchid species from the wild, i.e. that haven't been propagated in nurseries, a black market continues to thrive. Villagers have shipped the easily accessible areas of the forest of their orchids to sell in shops and markets of the cities. Happily, though, the natural splendor of orchids in their forest home can still be glimpsed by visiting one of the 79 national parks throughout Thailand.
A very popular orchid amongst Thai growers and in the expert market is the hardy, rapid growing hybrid Dendrobium Pompadour. This graceful mauve bloom, known in Thailand as "Madame", is associated with many Thai things. But didn't actually originate in Thailand; it was developed in France in the 1930's and arrived in Thailand during the 1940's.
For those who want experience the orchid market of Thailand, the Phak Khlong Talaad is well worth a visit. Located near Bangkok's Memorial Bridge, or Saphaan Phut in Thai, you will discover this orchid center to be a delightfully intoxicating experience for the eye and the nose. In the early evening you will even find it difficult to walk along the pavement, as piles of fresh orchids spill out of every stall. Many of these orchids will end up decorating the restaurants and lobbies of Bangkok's famous five star hotels. Others are weaved into puang malai, intricate garlands to be hung in vehicles as lucky charms, or dedicated as offerings at the plethora of Buddhist shrines throughout the city.