Things just seem more exotic when you're in a strange place, don't they? Where I grew up in Maine there was a bog (swamp) about 1/2 mile in the woods from our home. It was simply a small stream that was dammed by beavers and the water spread out over the flatland causing a shallow water body. As kids we took the beaten path down to it many times. But mostly just to goof around and catch frogs. I never really paid much attention to the natural setting and plant life.
Fast forward to today. Now I'm much more aware of my surroundings, but that awareness is further amplified when I'm in a new land. Foreign things just seem more, well, foreign. It's a bit strange because I've taken so much for granted my environment in the USA all these years, I likely would see my own country as foreign if I took the time to appreciate its offer.
Regardless, I'm happy to take the time these days to appreciate the natural things of this world. In Thailand they have the equivalent of what I call a bog in the USA. In these shallow waters grows the beautiful lotus flower.
The lotus flower is available for viewing in most of Asia and all of Southeast Asia. They can be found in the flood plain regions of the country.
The flowers generate hundreds of thousands of seeds that drop to the bottom of the waters. From there they germinate or get consumed as food by fish. Some seeds lie dormant after the flood waters subside and sprout again when the rains begin again and flood the plains.
In Thailand the best viewing season for these beautiful flowers is the period between February and March. Local tourists flock to Udon Thani for this annual show. The event is not as well known among western tourists to Thailand, so the area is mainly visited by Asian tourists.
I visited the area after the peak season so I did not see the flowers in full bloom. But there was a bonus to this late visit; I had the place to myself! There were still boatsman available to take a wayward stranger out into the waters and I was ready to go.
The typical fee for a longtail boat rental for the event is 600 Baht which is approximately equivalent to just under $20 USD. I am sure I could have negotiated a lower price since no one was there, but I chose not to this time. I felt compassion for the boatsman trying to eke out a living with his boat and no customers.
Typically the boat ride lasts about an hour, but my ride lasted closer to two hours. Since he had no further prospects that morning he was quite generous with his time. But not his gas, as much of the time we just drifted in the sea of plants. That was great with me as that was the most enjoyable
It is possible to take a walkway into the flood plains for viewing, but it's not the same as being out among them. Besides, after peak season you really need a boat to go find those flowers that still remain.
This spot was about the best view the boatsman found for me. Although not a lot of flowers compared to peak season, it was sufficient to get a flavor of what it would be like.
I'm really not sure I would enjoy being there in peak season if all the boats were filled with people viewing at the same time. Although the abundance of flowers would be magnificent, it would be greatly detracted by all the people there. At least for me, I think I prefer what I experienced on this trip to Udon Thani.
Imagine this place in full bloom?
The boatsman was not at all careful as he plowed through the flower fields, but I guess there was no real need to be. The season was pretty much over and I don't think he could harm the plants with his boat.
This is a typical viewing I had during this off season. Not spectacular, but still able to see the lotus flowers.
Up close to one of the prettiest flowers I saw on this adventure.
The lotus is used for food in many parts of Asia. All of the plant is used as food in some way. The seeds can be eaten as is when they are green or ground into a paste. The pedals can be dried and put into recipes; they're also used to combat mushroom poisoning. The leaves and stems and even the roots can be stir fried or added to recipes.
I admit I did not eat any while I was there. Not that I was not willing, it's just I had no opportunity. All the restaurants nearby that I assume would normally serve lotus were closed since it was the off season (or perhaps because it was too early in the day). I never saw it on the menu in other parts of the country.
I had never heard of the lotus before traveling through Udon Thani, even though this is a very popular plant in Asia. After I became aware, I have been on the lookout for these gems whenever I travel near the flood plains.
As I have mentioned before, as I age I come to appreciate these moments more in life. I try not to take for granted the offerings of nature. I've grown more to respect the living things of this world, both animal and plant. This is one of the fond memories I have of this beautiful nation of Thailand. It is one of the reasons it is my favorite country to visit.