The people of Taiwan love orchids and america

By Published September 12, 2013

Recently, I had the good fortune to visit Taiwan on a trip sponsored by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, the same organization that sponsors the SFOS's Pacific Orchid Exposition. The objective was to introduce Taiwan and its many tourist sites to orchid enthusiasts and a select group of media representatives on the trip. We were able to see firsthand how orchids play an integral role in Taiwan's culture and everyday life.

We had a small group from the Bay Area put together by Frances Larose from the Larose Group, the publicity firm for the show. Joining us on the trip was Sidney Erthal, an independent photographer, Monique Soltani, an independent videographer and social media blogger, P. J. Bremier, a writer for the Marin Independent Journal and Marin Magazine, and Eve Wertsch, a travel consultant from Fugazi Travel. It was a wonderful trip where we traveled around the small island country seeing historical, cultural, and natural sites. We experienced beautiful weather, with days in the 70s and nights in the mid 60s. The highlight for me, was attending the International Taiwan Orchid Show.

The Taiwan Orchid Show is held in Tainan City, the oldest city in Taiwan and located on the Southwest coast. After flying into Taipei, Taiwan's capital in the north, we took a bullet train for the hour and half ride to Tainan. The organizers of the show have regular free shuttle buses from both the bullet train station and also the local train station. This is very important for the show. With an attendance of over 300,000 people for the 10 days of the event, many of those visitors rely on the train to get to the show.

Once we arrived at the show, we were warmly greeted by the show organizers and Dennis Kao, the show Chairman. The show was held at the Taiwan Orchid Plantation, which is a 250 acre complex of greenhouses used both for the show as well as the growing area for plants being exported to the United States and other countries. To say that the show is huge is an understatement. I would guess that the Taiwan show is 4-5 times the size of the Pacific Orchid Exposition, which is one of the largest orchid shows in the U.S.

The entrance to the show brings you into the exhibit hall (converted greenhouses) where commercial firms, visiting countries and orchid societies have large exhibits displaying their specialties. These were strictly for beauty and only the exhibits are judged, not the plants. The highlight of this hall was the 30-40 foot mountain with Phalaenopsis cascading over the rocks, created by Taiwan Sugar Company. Also, spectacular, were the two trees with 5000 cut Oncidium sprays wired to the branches of each one. We attended the show on the 8th day and the cut flowers looked as fresh as the day they were cut. Also in this hall were exhibits displaying orchid fragrance products and technology, dresses on exhibit from the fashion show, and crystal and ceramic products.

The next hall we visited was the individual plant exhibit area, where plants were displayed for judging their individual merit. This is where the grand champion and other award winning plants are shown, selected from 1500 plant entries and judged by almost 200 judges. While Phalaenopsis were the dominant orchid, there was a wonderful selection of other species and hybrids shown. Due to the warm climate of Taiwan, there were very few of the cool growing plants that we take for granted here in the bay area.

The next hall we visited was the commercial sales area where growers from Taiwan and other countries displayed their wares. Some of the booths were vacant as some visiting vendors from overseas had already sold out in the first 7 days. Sales looked to be brisk, and those customers from overseas could obtain CITES documentation to take plants home with them.

The fourth and final hall, called the Dream Hall, displayed the growing process of Phalenopsis and the technology and inner workings of the greenhouses. We were unable to see this hall since we were scheduled to visit a Ten Drum performance and other sites in Tainan City.

We spent four hours viewing the show, and could have easily spent another four if time allowed. The Taiwan International Show is certainly something every orchid fancier should see. The quality of the exhibits and individual plants for exhibition were some of the best I have ever seen. The show was extremely well organized for such a huge show and everyone we met could not have been nicer. The trip for me was a wonderful experience, and I would highly recommend visiting Taiwan and their fantastic orchid show.

For more pictures of the Taiwan International Orchid Show, go to www.orchidsanfrancisco.org