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Oases in the Dry Season

March 19, 2010

I have been at Dokmai for nearly three weeks now.  As I prepare to pack my bags and move on to the next adventure, I thought I would stop and reflect on the last few days here at Dokmai Garden.

Earlier this week, we took a brief vacation from the garden and headed to Mae Khanin to check out the area in the dry season and see if there were any orchids in bloom.  There were about five of us in our party, and we headed out for our hike after lunch.  We climbed up a mountain in the area in search of orchids and hoping to camp out near the summit.  We stopped many times in our ascent, pausing to identify different tree and flower species.  By the time we made it to our intended camping site, it was almost evening.  Before setting up camp, we explored the area a bit and realized that the smell of fire that had been permeating the air for most of the week was getting stronger and stronger.  (For many years in Chiang Mai,  people have been burning the land in the dry season, which usually results in hazy, smoke-filled skies and low quality ground soil.) We decided that the risk of fire was too strong to stay the night and headed back to the village to make camp.

We found a spot to set up camp on a piece of land the Seehamongkol family owns.  The village sits in a valley and reaps the benefits of higher altitude, cooler temperatures at night, and an unfamiliar morning dew.  The result of which is an oasis-like green region with coconut palms, banana trees, small ponds with edible water plants, a creek, and luscious green grass.  Chiang Mai is in the middle of the dry season, which means the mountains, home of many deciduous trees, are painted brown at this time of year.  Mid-day temperatures can reach 40+ degrees Celsius (or 100+ fahrenheit), and the air is incredibly dry.  Needless to say, this little nook of greenery among the dryness was a welcome–and surprising–change.

The next day, we continued our walk, hiking in a different direction away from the village, again stopping every ten or so meters to discuss a tree, flower, or fruit.  We returned to Dokmai Garden, tired, smelly, and happy after our venture.

A few hours later, as the sun was beginning to set through the smoky haze, we heard a crash of thunder.  In a few minutes, the storm was upon us, splashing fresh water on the streets of Hong Dong.  Although the rain did not amount to much–only about 1 liter per square meter, not enough even for the trees to register the rain–the rare shower was enough to remind us that the rains are not far off and the dry season will not last forever.

-Madeline, U.S.A.

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