Flower power


Thailand bursts into bloom during the winter months. Check out these destinations for a fabulous floral experience

Winter has been giving hints that it’s almost upon us in recent days and, as with every cool season, there really is no better time than to take your camera for a walk on the wild side.
From November to February in Chumphon and Chiang Rai provinces and lots of places in between, a multi-hued carpet of flowers spreads out over the highlands and lowlands as cherry blossom, robusta, water lilies and even adenium open their petals to the sun. 
Here are some places to revel in flower power this cool season. Do avoid long weekends if you can or you risk getting swept away in the tourist tide.
Some fall in love with its pinkish flower. Others like its unusual, thick caudex. Native to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, Adenium obesumis is often referred to as the Desert Rose though the Thais call it “chuan chom”. From November to January, thousands of potted adenium rise up tall and show off their flowers to visitors at Nongnooch Garden in Pattaya, Chon Buri province. The beauty of adenium, it’s said, increases as it ages. Keep your eyes on the big trunk. Like the Chinese Laughing Buddha with its large belly, the bulging caudex of the adenium is considered lucky. 
WHEN TO GO: November to January
The Mexican sunflower – “buatong” in Thai – is actually a weed and an invasive weed at that. Poor African farmers love it for offering an alternative to synthetic fertiliser thanks the ability of its roots in improving soil nutrients and even though the Mexican sunflower was introduced to Mae Hong Son to protect against soil erosion, the locals only care about its gorgeous golden flower. When the fields of Mexican sunflowers are in full bloom, they turn the hilly landscape into a sea of gold. Best place to take them in is Doi Mae U Koh in Khun Yuam district. From the lookout, you’ll be transfixed by the golden fields of flower sweeping down into the valley.
WHEN TO GO: November to early December
Lop Buri’s sunflower fields are particularly popular with day-trippers from Bangkok. The city-dwellers drive to the golden fields to rejuvenate their minds and refresh their spirit. The endless fields of sunflowers stretched out against the backdrop of Khao Cheen-lae Mountain are perfect for photo opportunities.
WHEN TO GO: November to February
Known as Christmas Flower for its red and green foliage, Poinsettias bloom in Phu Ruea district of Loei in December just in time for the festive season. Local farmers are celebrating this year’s fine crop from tomorrow through Saturday at the Christmas Flower field just before the entrance to Phu Ruea National Park. 
WHEN TO GO: December to January
The Robusta, known commonly known as Coffea canephora, has more to offer than a powerful caffeine kick and you don’t have to be a coffee fanatic to enjoy it. From December to February, the Robusta shrubs yield white flowers over all 25,430 hectares of the province’s coffee plantations. Delicate as it is beautiful, the Robusta flower has a light sweet scent during the day that gets stronger at night. Tha Sae district is the best place to admire the blooms.
WHEN TO GO: December to February. 
Tulip might be the pride of the Netherlands, but the showy flowers are happy to bloom for tourists in Chiang Rai during the Flower Festival. This annual event draws thousands of visitors to Thailand’s northernmost province for an exhibition of cold-climate flowers, which also includes petunias, lilies and the ageratum known as the Blue Hawaii, though it’s invariably the tulip that steals the show. The festival kicks off on December 26 and continues through February 14. 
WHEN TO GO: December to February
While the Japanese are patiently waiting for their first blooms, which usually arrive early January in Okinawa, residents of Dan Sai district, Loei province are already posting selfies with cherry blossoms in December. In Phu Lomlo, the Himalaya Sakura turns the 500-acre valley into a romantic landscape and pink blossoms greet the eye at every turn.
WHEN TO GO: December
Nong Han, a freshwater lake in Udon Thani’s Kumphawapi district, is home to the country’s largest concentration of water lilies. The aquatic plants grow from the rhizomes beneath the soil at the bottom of water. With long tubular stems and green leaves, the water lily yield lovely red flowers and turn the 3,600 hectares of the lake into a “red sea”. Visitors go there to enjoy a slow boat ride and make friends with the birds and bees. 
WHEN TO GO: February
White, yellow, purple and pink are the theme colours of Wang Nam Kheow district in February, as the chrysanthemums open their petals to the sun. Classy as they are colourful – ’mums are a cash crop for the local farmers and they celebrate from February 9 to 15 by putting on the annual Mums in the Mist Festival,
WHEN TO GO: February