Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lorrie's Thoughts

It has been such an honor to be a chaperone on the trip to Southeast Asia with the fellows. When I first read over the itinerary for the trip, it seemed unbelievable. Now, looking back on everything that I got to see and experience, it has been more than unbelievable…it has been the trip of a lifetime!

The gardens that we got to visit were breathtaking. All I kept saying was, “This is so beautiful.” I cannot wait to show everyone at Longwood my pictures, and believe me, there are many of them (so you all are forewarned).

Aside from the gardens, the cultural experiences that we had were just as thrilling. We got to visit local landmarks and learn about their importance to the country, eat authentic food that we all enjoyed (even the more spice-sensitive of us), we got to meet the local people and learned about their customs and traditions.

We had a lot of laughs together and learned so much about each other. Some things that come to mind about the trip are Barnabas’s love for shopping, scooter racing on the sidewalks, Jackie’s willingness to try anything, tuk-tuks, the hunt for a durian, the silk rug store, and our ride with the elephants.

Thank you Matt, Dan, Jackie, and Barnabas for planning such a wonderful trip. You were a great group to travel with and it has been such an honor to be your chaperone along the way.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

A-Mazing Tweechol

Check out our adventure in the Syzygium Maze at Tweechol Botanic Garden!

Barnabas, Dan, Jackie, Lorrie, Matt E., Matt Q., Yoko

Botanical Gardens of Chiang Mai

Today we all had a great time in Chiang Mai visiting not one, but two of the regions largest horticultural attractions. We also visited a local market which sold produce and cut flowers, and we officially celebrated Barnabas’s Birthday by going out to eat at a Chinese Restaurant!

The first garden we visited this morning was Tweechol Botanical Gardens. We began our visit at the garden’s informational museum, which housed some local artifacts. Next we took a tour of the grounds by golf cart. The topiary at Tweechol were amazing, there were dragons, gorillas, dolphins and dinosaurs that were very accurate! The garden also had very interesting collections of tropical “house” plants, cacti, orchids and anthuriums. Tweechol also housed the first rose garden that we have seen all trip; the climate in Chiang Mai is much cooler than the other places we have visited, which allows the opportunity to grow a different selection of plants.

Our next stop of the day was Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens. We were met by Dr. Prachaya Srisanga who initiated our visit with an informational video, that gave us a great introduction to the garden. He then gave us a tour of some of the glasshouses of the upper garden, and answered many of our accumulating plant questions! We were so impressed with Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens that we decided to return to the gardens following lunch so that we could have more time on our own to walk around the lower portion of the gardens. This was a wise decision as we ended up enjoying a beautiful stroll through the garden’s arboretum and fern grotto.

As mentioned earlier we ended our day with a visit to a local market, where we bought some dried fruits and fresh flowers. Our evening went well with dinner for Barnabas, and some shopping at the local night bazaar. None of us knew what an incredible haggler Barnabas could be with souvenir prices!

I would also like to add that tonight was our last night of competition in the groups “Survivor Challenge”. I don’t want to toot my own horn but yours truly, (Jackie B.), has shot up through the ranks to take this honor home. Mom, I’ve visited Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand- but most importantly I’ve won first place against the other fellows and chaperones with my incredible shopping, drawing, spelling, clapping, object searching, and fortune telling talents. I hope you’re proud!

Barnabas, Dan, Jackie, Lorrie, Matt E., Matt Q., Yoko

Discovering Nong Nooch

Check out our video highlights from Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden and Resort!

Barnabas, Dan, Jackie, Lorrie, Matt E., Matt Q., Yoko

Suan Luang Rama IX Public Park and Kasetsart University

After a wonderful two-day visit to a truly unique botanical garden, we traveled by car from Nong Nooch to Bangkok for another set of important visits. Reaching Bangkok, we drove directly to Suan Luang Rama IX Public Park for a meeting with several members of the park’s governing body, Suan Luang Rama IX Foundation. The public park was built to honor HM the King of Thailand, on his 60th birthday and was completed 05 December 1987. Khunying Suchada Sripen, Vice Chairman of the Suan Luang Rama IX Foundation Executive Committee, gave a warm welcome to the group and also reviewed some details of the park’s operation and development. The Suan Luang Rama IX Public Park is composed of several distinct sections, including geographic gardens and display beds, for the visitor to experience independently. The garden also contains an impressive collection of bibliographic artifacts representing the life of the King in Rajamangkala Hall. During 2007, this prominent piece of architecture was slated for renovation to celebrate the King’s 80th birthday.

The Fellows and chaperones then toured several areas of the public park with members of the Foundation. Together we took several opportunities to stop and stroll around important plant collections and display areas, and the group took advantage of the time to discuss maintenance and management related issues with the park’s professional staff. The visit ended with refreshments and the exchange of business cards before leaving this wonderful public park given for the people of Bangkok.

After a wonderful lunch at a local restaurant provided by our guide, Mai, the group continued to our next appointment with the Department of Horticulture at Kasetsart University. That afternoon Dr. Poonpipope Kasemsap, explained the structure of Kasetsart University, its history, and current operation. Dr. Kasemsap also explained the various academic programs and curricula within the Faculty of Agriculture and the Department of Horticulture at Kasetsart. After our introduction, Associate Professor Alisara Menakanit was present to highlight a unique, newly established masters program in landscape architecture. The program combines the strengths of both the landscape architecture and horticulture departments to educate the latest group of Thai landscape architects. We enjoyed a tour of several landscapes designed by graduates of the program with Dr. Menakanit after the meeting. The students employed wonderful plant combinations with striking design elements in several public spaces around the Kasetsart University Library, and it was obvious that the university community benefited greatly from their education and work.

At the end of the afternoon, we were all happy to have added these two establishments into our professional network and look forward to furthering our interaction. That evening we dined at a European restaurant in Bangkok (our first in weeks!) and rested for another day of touring in Thailand.

Barnabas, Dan, Jackie, Lorrie, Matt E., Matt Q., Yoko

Monday, January 21, 2008

Keeping it Moving in Kuala Lumpur!

Check out our video highlights from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! 

Barnabas, Lorrie, Dan, Matt Q., Matt E. (Producer Extraordinaire), Jackie, and Yoko

Nong Nooch-errific

     Upon our arrival in Thailand, we were greeted at the airport by our wonderful guide Mai. We made a quick stop at the local 7-Eleven (Ha!) before heading straight to Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden and Resort. We relaxed in our adorable bunaglos and called it an early evening.

     I don't think that any of us expected the gardens that were in store for us at Nong Nooch. Saturday morning Mai took us on a general tram tour of the gardens and resort. There are incredible European style gardens with collections of palms, cycads, bonsai, and topiary Bouganvilleas mixed between. We were all astounded to see the French Garden; it is a space larger than a football field filled with incredibly manicured parterre hedges, large central topiaries, and over 6,000 bright pink bouganvilleas in two gallon sized pots!

     In the afternoon we were able to meet with employees of Nong Nooch, Mr. Thonglee Sittichiangpin and Mr. Somchai Sae-Yang, who were able to answer the barrage of questions that we had after our morning walk. We learned that there are over  1,000 gardeners that work on grounds and that all of the hedges and topiaries are trimmed every 15 days! There is an incredible amount of work that goes on here at Nong Nooch!

     As far as the group goes, we are all doing quite well. Sunday we had another day off, and, after enjoying the morning together, we split up and enjoyed Nong Nooch on our own. We have begun a "Survivor" type game in the group where each person has a question and answer period for one day, and this same person must also pick a challenge at the end of the day for the group to partake in. So far we have had "J-Day" (for Jackie) and "The Lorrie Story," we are about to do our next challenge to figure out whose day is tomorrow, so I better go...

Barnabas, Dan, Jackie, Lorrie, Matt E., Matt Q., Yoko