Orchid Fever in Chiang Mai, Thailand
If you have met me in person, chances are I have told you I love Orchids. And if you happen to know me, you probably know I don't just love Orchids.... I am obsessed with them. At home, I own 25+ orchid plants of many different species. Including Phalenopsis, Dendrobiums, Miltoniopsis and Oncidiums. If this doesn't mean anything to you, maybe letting you know I belong to a group called "Orchaholics Anonymous" will help explain my love for Orchids.
When we arrived in Chiang Mai and we started looking for thing to do, Greg suggested we go look at some Orchid farms near Chiang Mai. I was extremely impressed and excited that he initiated the idea, because i though i was going to have to drag him there against his will. Greg actually bought me my very first Orchid, a gift he now regrets since they seem to occupy every room in our place. We decided we would visit two Orchid farms the next day, and I couldn't wait.
On our second day, Greg and I rented scooters for 250 Bhat a day (about $10CAD and that includes additional insurance) to scoot up to some orchids farms north of Chiang Mai. It took about 45 minutes to scoot to our first stop Bai Butterfly and Orchid Farm. When we arrived there it was 40 Bhat to get in and included a fresh orchid bloom that they pinned to your shirt. This farm is obviously structured to be a tourist trap, but I didn't mind that too much.
When you enter Bai farm you will find rows of stunning blooming Vanda Orchids. Vanda's are a species of Orchid that like to have their roots open to the air. They live off of humidity, rain and the nutrients they absorb. You typically find domestic Vanda's hanging from wires or seated in small baskets to keep them facing upright. I was told there are over 200+ varieties of Vanda's at Bai farm. the farm only displays the plants that are currently blooming, and it makes for a beautiful display. None of the plants have IDs on them though, so if you wanted to know the variety, you would have to ask someone. My hope for visiting the farms was to see a species called Cattleya. I find their blooms so beautiful and appealing. I don't own any myself, since they are expensive and I haven't found a variety I really love in Canada yet. Bai farm did have a small selection of Cattleya Orchids, again they only displayed the blooming plants, but there was about 20 different varieties on display and that satisfied my thirst. If you looked past the visitors area of the farm you could see into the growing area where they housed thousands of orchid plants! I couldn't see any in bloom, but it was quite a sight as an Orchid lover.
At Bai, there is also an atrium with local butterfly species. there isn't any information about the butterflies or the enclosure available, but it was a very cool thing to see! Its a nice little detour and the atrium has ponds and lots of tropical greenery.
Bai orchid and Butterfly Farm also has a coffee shop, and an all you can eat buffet available for visitors. I dint look at the coffee shop, since the cost of the buffet already scared me off. we are trying to stick to a budget of $30CAD a day, and the buffet was 250 Bhat ($10CAD) not including drinks. But it looked delicious and I was a bit dissapointed when we agreed not to splurge on the price. There was a huge selection of Thai food, including appies, entrees and desserts. Greg and I decided to go down the road a few steps and have lunch at a little old lady's food stand for 40 Bhat instead. The farm also offered a gift shop that had a beautiful selection of preserved orchid blooms that are set into jewelry and other accessories. They take orchid blooms, add some dye to help the colour last, then coat them in enamel and detail with 24 karat gold. They were stunning and started at about 350 Bhat. I regret not buying a hair pin, because I told myself i would find them for cheaper in town, but have yet to see them.
You could also buy live orchid plants if your heart desired! They sold flasks of Vanda and Cattleya orchid seedlings for 400 Bhat including a certificate for import into Canada! I was sold, but it wasn't a good option for me since we still have 3.5 months left of backpacking. And carrying a live flask wouldn't be the best idea. But if you are heading home soon after visiting the farm i would totally try buying one! Its only $16CAD for about 15-20 plants. and If it gets confiscated at the airport then you aren't at a huge loss. But only buy it if you know what you are doing. Flasks are risky for beginners since the process is complicated and there is high risk you will loose the orchids.
After Bai we went to a different farm called Sai Nam Phung Orchid Farm. It was very close to Bai farm, just a couple minutes down the road. But when we got there we almost didn't go in, and I wish we hadn't. It cost 100 Bhat to enter, that included a live flower. The entry price made us hesitant but we eventually thought "If it costs more to get in, it must be way better than Bai". Don't make this same mistake. This farm was poorly maintained and not as exciting as Bai. The Vanda display had a lot of non-blooming plants in it, making not as much of an impact when you look at it. There were more Orchid species to look at like Phalenopsis, Dendrobiums and Cattleyas. The display's also covered more area but the majority of the plants weren't blooming so it wasn't very exciting. The grounds were poorly maintained. It looked like they had an enclosure for butterflies at some point in the past, but the structure was very run down and almost dangerous. It was definitely a disappointment after coming from Bai farm. They had the same things available in the gift shop, but they were more expensive. There was also a coffee shop, wine bar and restaurant that served a la carte dishes. I didn't check the prices, but I had a feeling it was expensssivveeee.
This day trip isn't just for Orchid lovers. Its a great place to go for anyone who enjoys the beauty of nature and flowers. And a very reasonable day trip for people on a budget. There are companies in Chiang Mai that offer tours, but its very easy to get there yourself by scooter, taxi or tuk tuk. So my suggestions if you are looking to see some beautiful orchids in the Chiang Mai area, go to Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm. We were very impressed with the displayed for the price of the entry fee. And if you don't want to spend the money for the buffet there are many local places along the road where you can get food that is just as delicious.
Thank you for reading!