Of all the abundant flowers that burst with colour year-round in Thailand, none can match the delicate beauty of orchids. Located around midway between Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom and Nonthaburi, Air Orchid Farm is perhaps the best place in the kingdom to experience the many types of orchids in all their splendid glory.
Encompassing some 25,000 distinctive species of orchid, the greater orchidaceae family is one of nature’s great expressions of beauty. Many of the most common orchids are a mix of pink, purple and/or white, but they also come in fiery oranges and yellows, rich maroons, icy blues and earthy greens. Some blossoms mature with perfect symmetry. Others are adorned with intricate patterns or a few subtle freckles, and a handful even resemble insects or butterflies.
Orchids have grown naturally in the jungles of Thailand for pretty much as long as the jungles have been there. While the plant’s dangling roots and supple blossoms still cling to old growth in places like Khao Sok national park, the vast majority of orchids that end up in markets like Bangkok’s Pak Khlong Talaart originate from one of the many specialty farms that dot the Thai countryside. In eastern Nakhon Pathom province, a man aptly named Air has been at the fore of orchid cultivation and development in Thailand since the early 1980s.
Lining either side of the back road that leads to the farm, Air’s orchids stretch for as far as the eye can see. As one of Thailand’s largest orchid farms, Air produces several orchid varieties such as Dendrobium and Cymbidium for both the domestic and international markets, but it’s also deeply devoted to the art of orchid cultivation. Air and his team have bred over 1,500 new orchid hybrids over the years, many of which can be viewed and purchased in the farm’s enormous orchid market.
Covered by a vast sloped roof that allows in just the right amount of sunlight to keep the flowers happy, the bright and fragrant space is sure to raise spirits of even the most grouchy travellers. Though it appears to do a brisk business, the market feels more like a museum as experts mingle with visitors and share their knowledge.
At least one worker speaks a little English and she schooled us on horticulture terms like ‘inflorescence’, or the clusters of blossoms that often appear on a single orchid plant. We also learned that the term ‘orchid’ comes from a Greek word that means ‘testicle’ due to the way in which the vine-like roots hang.
Visitors are free to roam the aisles and take photographs of as many of the orchids as they like. The variety is spectacular; one could spend hours gazing at the sumptuous blossoms and soaking up the sweet scents. You can even enjoy a cup of coffee or tea at a cafe surrounded by orchids. Even if it’s not possible to bring an orchid plant through your home country’s customs, you may as well pick up a bouquet of fresh cut orchids for your hotel room — they start at just 10 baht a piece.
How to get there
The farm is located some 40 kilometres northwest of Bangkok along a country road near the border of Nakhon Pathom and Nonthaburi provinces. From Bangkok, the only realistic option for travellers without their own transport is to pay a taxi around 1,500 baht for a return trip. If coming from Nakhon Pathom, you could arrange a taxi for the whole trip or catch a local bus to Nakhon Chaisi or Salaya and get a tuk tuk or motorbike taxi from there, but it would be smart to print directions in Thai, which can be found on the website. The farm alone is probably not worth the effort unless you're seriously into orchids, but it makes sense when combined with a trip to nearby Lam Phaya floating market and/or Wat Bang Phra.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 8th May, 2014.