Kunming in BloomONE OF THE GREAT advantages of living in Chiangmai, or of basing oneself here for a holiday, is the ease and cheapness with which one can visit Thailand's Asian neighbours in the Mekong region. Quite apart from the longer distance flights to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, there are easy hops to Mandalay and Yangon in Myanmar or to Luang Prabang and Vientiane in Laos. Probably the most worthwhile flight is, however, the trip north to Kunming, capital of China's fertile Yunnan province.
Yunnan is blessed by a climate that is suited to the year-round cultivation of the many temperate flowers and fruits that are more commonly found further from the equator. This remarkable climatic advantage is being exploited to the full this year as Kunming hosts the '99 International Horticultural Exposition, one of the component parts of Ecotour China '99. The Chinese government is hosting this 6-month long exposition, which lasts from the beginning of May to the end of October 1999. It is not just a chance for China to showcase its numerous horticultural products, but is a truly international affair featuring displays from around the world even a display as far from the USA.
Steeped in ancient tradition, the "Middle Kingdom" is displaying comparisons of the horticultural techniques and products of bygone times with those of the brisk new age of sophisticated breeding techniques, genetic manipulation and physical and chemical control of the growing environment.
The theme of the display is, however, very much directed towards ecological topics and environmental protection. It is entitled "Man and Nature - Marching into the 21st Century", fully compatible with the overall aim of promoting eco tourism throughout China's innumerable climatic zones and natural habitats. The horticultural exposition takes place at the sprawling Jindian Tourist Resort just an easy 10 minute ride from the city centre. This resort covers 500 acres of rolling woodland studded with lakes, a shimmer like so many pearls in this sea of green. It is centred around Jindian, Kunming's famous Golden Temple on the slopes of Mount Mingfen.
Quite apart from the serious theme of the exposition, the stars of the show are the many fabulous blossoms and displays of horticulture past, present and future. The delicate, pale tracery of orchids is balanced by rich, velvety roses and the cerulean blue of mountain poppies all contained within the verdant borders of the Jindian complex. This is a show to enjoy as well as one to educate and broaden the mind and should be included by anyone planning a visit to southwestern China.
The horticultural exposition promises to be a once in a lifetime experience which is a definite must to be included when visiting the other wonders of China's "Spring City" and its surrounding countryside. Here can be found the blooming alpine meadows of Lijiang, Dali Lake where the Mae Khong river's giant catfish breed and the stone forest in the territory of the Yi people. Add to all these the great climate, the wonderful food, the amazing ethnic diversity of the people, and Kunming and Yunnan province are worthwhile places to visit.
Even better, the whole excursion can be incorporated into your visit to Chiangmai, the gateway to northern Indochina. Thai International flies to Kunming every Thursday and Saturday.
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