A laowai voyeur at the flower expo: Fragrant emotions

by on 週三, 23 二月 2011 評論

I did not pay much attention a few months ago to the controversy in the media about the price tag of this International Flower Exposition (台北國際花卉博覽會).

I did hear different opinions from my Chinese and foreign friends about this international event, some already enthusiastic and others rather bemused by the cost of hosting an international event that after having done the complete tour was far from triggering a “wow” reaction. Finally, I decided to have a look by myself, so on a grey, but nevertheless mild Friday morning – at least by Taipei standards – I bought the entrance ticket. I had been previously warned that visitors were clogging up some pavilions and as I approached the Pavilion of dreams, I saw people queuing to get in, I started to have a nightmare of sorts and decided that it was better for me to wander around from Zhongshan to Xinsheng. My reasoning was quite simple: flowers have their natural habitat outside, under the skies, no matter blue or grey, and as a standard, non-VIP visitor, camera in hand I decided that it was not necessary to rush everywhere to have a glimpse of everything. If it is really worth it, I will come again. Flowers are fragile plants and I would guess they have been suffering from the same wave of cold and nasty rain that affected us in the North of Taiwan recently. I knew that it could be childish to expect all of them to be blossoming gorgeously. However despite my benevolent disposition I had been somehow frustrated. I like flowers though I don’t have green fingers. I am still annoyed when flowers or plants are used for other purposes as to represent a venerable Buddha, an elephant or a whale breaching and leaping on the surface of an ocean. This Disneyland touch contains for me too much of the kindergarten culture that pervades many aspects of life in Taiwan. For me, a slightly crumpled rose reveals more beauty as it gives, in a glance, a sense of ideal perfection and unavoidable fragility. For that reason I did like the austere and Spartan simplicity of the ecological pond (生态池). Wandering for four hours, including the noon meal, in the precincts of Zhongshan and Xinsheng areas was yet a pleasant experience. The place was reflecting the quality of service generally encountered everywhere in Taiwan. Efficient volunteers, a lot of whom are able to answer in English, really give visitors the impression that nothing was left out in the organization of this international event. As around noon I was visiting the Taiwanese food court (台灣美食區), tray in hand, leaving the food-stall a boy approached me and in good English inquired if I was looking for a seat: it was ready for me at the table his family was just vacating; how gentle and attentive with respect to a friend coming from afar, I thought. That note of kindness was a good reflection of the atmosphere of a place where visitors, including many families at the beginning of kid’s winter vacation, were enjoying their day off. Of course since it was on a week-day, exposition grounds were not overcrowded, and that contributed indeed to the relaxed atmosphere. It really was an exposition, not a fair with all the excitement that goes with.

The following morning I decided to go to the Jianguo Flower Market (建國花市). In contrast to the exposition, the place looked like a beauty parlour, flowers offered to the buyers gaze, as if lined up for a beauty contest! Not very natural either!

I don’t know if I will take more time to visit the exposition, I dream and hope that Taipei could become one day the most flourished city of Asia in all seasons. Even under grey skies, flowers would alleviate the greyness of the streets and lanes. Their touch of colour would match perfectly with the kindness of the people, and maybe at a lesser price tag. I did mention that I don’t have green fingers, but other people do. What about launching a contest to make the city an international attraction all year long? I remember in Europe, small villages blooming in summer because every humble house takes it as a duty and a pleasure to beautify its appearance. Indeed in Taipei a lot of progress has been made. I think that different city governments have taken the right steps in greening their towns. I remember more than 20 years ago a foreign visitor sharing his feelings about Taipei: a city on the edge of a big disaster. Thanks God, it is no more the case. As better weather looms I am afraid I will be more tempted to enjoy once again the peaceful disposition of The Lin’s Family Residence (林家花園) or cherry trees and azaleas in Yangmingshan than to buy another ticket to the exposition.

Photo courtesy of B. Girardot

 

 

Jacques Duraud (杜樂仁)

Board member of the Taipei Ricci Isntitute. Former Publisher of Renlai Magazine. 

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