It is difficult for me to pass up a potentially great garden, so when they claim that Kunming’s Expo Facility was the largest horticultural exhibition in China I was intrigued, albeit skeptical. It couldn’t possibly worth the steep 100 yuan, ($16), admission price. The exposition was back in 1999 and with China’s habit of rapid building, followed by years of neglect, only to tear the structures down again to build something else, how well were these gardens really maintained?
So after hemming and hawing after lunch one day, wondering if the storm rumbling in the background was actually going to produce any rain, I decided I did need to go check this place out. It was a long slow ride on the #71 bus, the same one that takes you further up the road to the Golden Temple. For the Expo Gardens get off at Shì Bó Yuán, 世博园. You can’t miss the enormous parking lot.
Visiting the Gardens
Late on a Thursday afternoon there were few other visitors. Packs of school children were leaving the park. I timed this one right! Since I didn’t have enough time to see everything I ran past the giant flowered ship (not without snapping a quick shot) and headed first for the domestic gardens.
The immense park includes garden spaces representing all 34 provinces and regions of China plus another 25 to 30 countries in the international area. Then there are the other specialty gardens – trees, herbs, fruits and vegetables, stones, etc. It would take a solid morning or afternoon at a good pace to cover everything. I was on a tight schedule trying to see as much as possible in just two hours.
Chinese Provincial Gardens
The Chinese provincial gardens were better than I expected, with most of the representative plots (generally about 1,500 square meters) in good shape with small traditional buildings and/or mini landscapes trying to capture the essence of the province.
Many of them included pavilions where you could sit and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. As I rushed through, certainly not the proper way experience Chinese gardens, I ran across more than one Chinese sleeping on the benches.
And last but not least Yunnan, the home province.
The international gardens have not fared so well over the years. Some are still in reasonably good shape. Myanmar for example, is lush, green and well manicured. Others, however, such as those from Western Europe, look long forgotten. This may be changing as they are doing extensive construction in this area.
Fruit and Vegetable Garden
On my way out I stopped by the fruit and vegetable garden. I was at first disappointed with the trays of plants waiting to be planted melting in the afternoon sun. But as I walked deeper into the garden area, this one is about four times the size of some of the other spaces, I discovered well tended plots of eggplant, corn and other veggies and various trellis systems for growing large squash and gourds.
While the Expo Gardens are not one of Kunming’s must-see sights, and are definitely not a good value for the money, garden enthusiasts with time and money will enjoy a pleasant day at the park. That is if you don’t mind the Chinese flair for kitsch.
September 9, 2011
For links to all the posts in this series see the Kunming page.