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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Behold the Raffleisa

I guess I'm the only one excited about this dumb flower. Oh well.

Yesterday I finally saw what I came to Khao Sok National Park to see: the rafflesia, the corpse flower. I had heard tales of it being a meter-wide, foul-smelling monstrosity of a flower, I heard stories of people taking a hike on a whim to see it and suddenly coming upon a giant one, people who weren't even really looking for the flower, who didn't really know anything about it or care that much, people who (with the help of a guide, of course) stumbled upon a postcard-perfect specimen.

I was wanting, lusting after this flower, trying to see it since Malaysia ... and when I finally got there, it was dying, wilting, a tiny pathetic little thing.

At first I was angry. 500 baht for this?! An hour and a half of trekking in the hot jungle with a guide that spoke no English and going uphill, a steep kind of uphill that normally you wouldn't even think is uphill, you'd think it's just a wall, impassible, not an option for navigation ... all that, for this dinky little rotting flower?

It's some kind of poetic justice, some kind of luck or fate or karma, I guess, that the person who seeks so relentlessly for this thing comes upon a tiny withered dying one, whereas the people that don't really care too much find a record-breaker.

But the more I thought about it, thought about the reasons that I still can't explain, the reasons behind wanting to see this flower, the less angry I became. Here I was, in thick hot Thai jungle, clamboring uphill and over streams and seeing signs of wild elephants along the "path," and my reward is a glimpse of this impossibly rare flower that few people will ever actually see. So what if it's not a specimen worthy of National Geographic? So what if it's a dropping, rotten-salami ghost of a full-bloom rafflesia?

I got over my disappointment and just went up to it, smelled it and looked at it and just enjoyed it for what it was, seeing it with the young eager eyes of curisoity and wonder and awe that made me want to come all the way out there to see it in the first place.

I saw it, I touched it, I smelled it for myself, I took this idea and image of this exotic and bizarre thing and internalized it with sensation and memory, with touch and smell. That's all you can ever hope to do when you travel, to see a flower, to see a city, to see anything.

So I took my photos, I took my video, and I was happy to see what I could see of this one small strange part of this world.

More photos of the flower, hiking, elephants and jungle and my time in the park here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Corpse flower!It felt that you are really interested in it.