Nov 14 2012
One of the loveliest things about Southeast Asia is the wild abundance of flowery life, even when you’re in urban contexts like Siem Reap, where orchids (that cost less than a dollar) festoon many of the bars and restaurants.
And aside from their vibrant, exotic glories, there is a strangeness to them too. Given Cambodia’s climate, dry for half the year and wet and steamy for the other half, it’s not uncommon to encounter lush tropical vegetation sharing space with a spiny cactus, a plant you’d normally associate with desert landscapes.
Not long before we got married, I informed my poor, benighted wedded-to-be that if he ever bought me flowers I’d break his legs. Thinking he was off the two-dozen, gazillion dollar bouquet hook, and graciously ignoring the underlying menace, he danced a jig for a moment until he realised that he’d actually have to put some real thought into those occasions when he’s trying to tell me that he’s done something horribly wrong and needs a shortcut to put me in an accommodating mood before letting me know what it is.
On the other hand, I don’t love them so much that I know what most of them might actually be called. I know some people who feel the same about their lovers, but I think I’m on the less grave side of soulless.
Like anyone else who’s been in Asia for more than a minute or two, I’ve got my lotuses and frangipanis down, and a couple of other easy ones, like asters.
I can even spot a hollyhock from a hundred yards, though I don’t have a picture of one unfortunately. But for the rest, I’m going to have to rely on you to see if you can spot anything you recognise, and let me know.
It’s not because I don’t like flowers that I never want to be given them. I just object to being buttered up with something that I can’t throw and do some damage with or, if he’s been really bad, launch expensively off the side of a boat (or tuk tuk if needs must), with poignant music playing in the background of my mind.
Because I do like flowers, and I like them especially when they’re still in the ground, or on a tree or waving at me from hedgerows.
I didn’t realise quite how much I liked them until I reviewed some of my Cambodia photographs and found several dozen images only of flowers. About 13 dozen of them to be precise, and those are the ones that are left after doing a major purge.
And these aren’t images of flowers in the background, or flowers to the side, but full-on, centre stage, in all their frilly gorgeousness, just flowers.
I have more pictures of flowers than I do of temples, or people I know. I’m not sure what that says.
I managed to reduce my 12.91 dozen images down to 46, then down to 15.
They don’t even scrape the surface of what you see around us here, which means I’m off now with my camera to capture some more.
Don’t forget yours.
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