Broad, verdant spikes cling to the side of a Palm tree like a newborn. Leashed tigers laze about, vaguely miffed by the cheap price of admittance to pet and photograph them. Screaming terracotta mouths open wide toward the vast blue and request a weather report. There are animal sculptures everywhere. A crowd gathers at the water’s edge, cheering the fisherman as he teases a crocodile with a dangling dead fish. I’m convinced this place is aspiring to “theme park” status so that tourists will bring their children and spend hard-earned vacation money on elephant shows and overpriced coconut smoothies. Mosquitoes buzz. Electric fans spit water as I pass. My mouth waters at the sight of fresh mangoes dangling mid-air above a concession stand. It is hot, but not that hot. I concede it’s liken to an Asian Butchart Gardens; beautifully manicured, but by petite people donning wide straw hats rather than fair-skinned ones who salute a maple leaf flag. I am a tourist wandering through the catwalk maze of bonsai and perfectly shaped hedges, wondering how long one actually needs to see everything in the biggest botanical garden in Southeast Asia.
My friend Marjorie recently blogged about “the duality of everything.” With good comes bad. Each decision we make has gains and losses. While I am very grateful to experience this garden oasis and all its beauty, I feel a little sad too. Sad for the elephants who are trained to paint pictures, play soccer, ride bikes and “pretend fight” for the sake of traditional Thai performances.
Yet I am happy to have the opportunity to be this close to an incredibly large and stately creature:
I am thrilled to witness and capture sheer delight and surprise on my friends’ faces after a quick toss in the air by the wrinkly mammoths:
And of course there are the tigers. For a mere three dollars, any person can pay to sit with one. They really are just giant cats. (Giant cats that can eat you of course.) It’s thrilling and disarming all in the same split-second.
I’d be lying if I said that being this close to wild animals isn’t exhilarating. I’d also be lying if I said I haven’t thought about the animals being poked and prodded all day long for foreigners like me to be entertained. Duality.
While we only have about 4 hours to spare here, we’re able to see more of it in a shorter amount of time because of the elevated catwalk that tours much of the garden.
The pottery sculptures and “Orchid Garden” are highlights here.
It’ s funny how a simple thing like an Amarillo Texas boot pin can be such a hit in a foreign country. Judy gives one to a boy selling bananas and he’s quick to show all his friends. They in turn come running for a pin of their own.
At the end of the day, I am grateful for the time spent surrounded by God’s creations. My trip has been eye-opening, heart-breaking and hope-filling. I am slowly learning to survive in the duality of it all with an attitude of thankfulness.