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An edible jungle ginger

January 29, 2012

A few years ago people did not believe me when I said there was a gorgeous mountain valley with no tourist adaptations within an hours drive from Chiang Mai airport. During yesterday’s excursion to this Mae Kanin Tai I had to conclude the magic is gone, a resort is under construction, but maybe that is good?

The current culture of the valley, surrounded by the Opkhan national park, was doomed anyhow. Today’s rice farmers who are in their 40’s may go on for another 20 years, but their educated children will not bend backs for 300 Baht a day. The question is how the valley would develop when that happens? Establishing a resort with the aim of keeping a quiet atmosphere and admiration for nature and culture may in fact preserve some of the original cultural landscape, centuries old. Of course, ideally a resort should be placed outside the boundaries of the valley and then allow for excursions. This is what Dokmai Garden has done since the past few years in order to keep the magic intact. The current evolution was foreseen and inevitable, and maybe even the best for wildlife and wild orchids?

If you wish to see the last glimpse of authentic landscape before the tourist adaptations, go there this weekend. Do not waste time trying to buy land. What could be bought has already been bought. A real estate dealer could not believe his ears when he learnt that Ketsanee at one point offered her 4 rai land near the temple for 2.6 million Baht. At present he suggested not a Baht below 5 million, but Ketsanee has decided not to sell at all.

The surrounding jungles harbour many interesting organisms. Wild orchids, wild boar and here the fleshy edible bracts of a wild ginger. According to our garden school student Emily Driskill it tastes like ‘spicy celery’. I have failed to identify it, inspite of Kai Larsen’s eminent book ‘Gingers of Thailand’. Would anyone know this species?

Eric Danell

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