I knew I wouldn’t regret getting the annual Kew Gardens pass. Over the past year we’ve seen the world famous London gardens in all seasons and have enjoyed the escape to greener surroundings. This month we went to its Orchid Festival which transported us to the tropical climes of Thailand in a colourful display of the nation’s plant life.
I have a soft spot for Thailand. During my backpacking days I spent around two months in the country. It’s somewhere I feel an affinity for: it’s smiling people, beautiful beaches and chilled out vibe. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as relaxed as those weeks exploring the country at the beginning of my round-the-world trip.
Walking into Kew Gardens’ Princess of Wales conservatory, the Orchid Festival exuded a welcoming and familiar environment, reigniting a desire to return to Thailand. It’s been nearly eleven years since my husband and I went. Can you believe how time flies?
As we wandered in, we came across an ornate golden carriage.
Looking up, colourful umbrellas hung from the ceiling alongside paper lanterns.
In the middle of the waterways, orchids adorned a Thai-inspired palace.
I managed to get Mrs T to pose for a photo.
It didn’t take long for her to spot something further down the waterway. Lurking behind some mangroves, standing on lily pads, was a Thai elephant, squirting out water.
We’d barely had the chance to inspect the elephant when something more exciting – and real – appeared before us.
A water dragon. It suddenly emerged next to us on the pavement. A crowd of people quickly gathered around. My eldest, usually the hardy one, rushed behind me, a little scared.
It was amazing to get so close to the reptile. It beat the giant sculpture we had seen when we came in.
As it was half term there were events on and the girls had a go at printing on paper and silk with natural dyes and they did some pictures with stencils. A rail of Thai clothes was also available for dress up.
A rickshaw was in the room for photo opportunities. My two weren’t hugely willing models!
At the weekends, there are drop-in guided walks of the festival, live Thai music and Thai cuisine delicacies.
Everywhere you look in the conservatory, there are vibrant orchids of all shapes and sizes as well as huge leaves which fascinated Mrs T.
We came across a traditional Thai cart with hand-crafted umbrellas. Bursting with orchids, the cart has been borrowed from the Thai Embassy for the Orchid Festival.
Going to the top of the conservatory, we got great views of the lush tropical greens.
After around an hour and a half of orchid fun, my youngest was getting tired and we headed out of the conservatory. It meant we had to completely bypass the pop-up Thai gift shop. Filled with Thai-inspired books, presents and orchids (or course), no doubt I saved a lot of money by rushing past. We joustled to get past a long queue of people waiting to come into the Orchid Festival. Our early 10am arrival had paid off!
If you want a taste of Asia and a retreat from the cold London weather, then this could be just the ticket.
Orchid Festival: Need to know
– The Orchid Festival is on at Kew Gardens until 11 March 2018.
– The festival is included in the price of entry into Kew Gardens and is located in the Princess of Wales conservatory
– Do arrive early to skip the queues. We got there as the gardens opened at 10am and went straight to the conservatory. It was fairly quiet but when we left at 11.30am there was a large queue.
– At weekends there are guided tours, live music and foodie fun.
– One of Kew’s on-site restaurants, The Botanical, is serving a Thai-inspired afternoon tea.
– Book tickets online to save money.
– Kew Gardens is located in southwest London. It opens at 10am and closes at 5.45pm (last entry 5.15pm). Parking is limited.
– Kew Gardens tube station (district line to Richmond) is a 5 minute walk away.
– Kew Bridge railway station is around a 5 minute walk. Trains run regularly from London Waterloo. The 65 bus stops by the Victoria and Lion Gate of the Gardens.