Both flowers and humans have basked in this winter’s unseasonably warm weather at the Taichung World Flora Exposition.
Nearly four months since its opening, the expo has seen more than 5 million visitors. Organizers hope to see that number reach 8 million by the time everything wraps up in late April.
One of those visitors on a recent balmy weekday was Chien Ching-fong (簡清峰), a prison guard from Taoyuan. He and three colleagues strolled through the Houli Forest Park site taking in the flowers and outdoor art installations.
Photo courtesy of Taichung City Government
“It’s really refreshing to just relax in nature,” said Chien, a second-time visitor to the expo.
The expo is spread over three sites just north of downtown Taichung: Houli Horse Ranch and Forest Park, Waipu Park and Fengyuan Huludun Park. The Houli site has equine and environmental themes, with Waipu focusing on agriculture. Visitors to Fengyuan will see more traditional fields of flowers.
Photo: John Evans
A must-see attraction for some visitors is Houli’s the Sound of Blooming, a 15-meter-tall mechanical flower made up of 697 red pedals that open and close with clapping, music or other sounds.
The interactive artwork is based on the sensitive plant, also known as tickle-me plant, that contracts its leaves when touched, said Huang Yi-han (黃意涵), a spokesperson with the Taichung City Government.
“It’s like an orchestra playing with all the flowers,” Huang said of the thematic music accompanying the piece. “Sometimes it’s peaceful but sometimes it’s dramatic, like a storm is coming.”
With a theme of “Rediscover GNP: Green, Nature, and People,” each site is unique, but tied together with the philosophy of sustainable development and a balance of humans and the environment.
Originally planned for just the Houli site, parts of the expo were moved to Waipu and Fengyuan when planners discovered signs of leopard cat activity on the former military training grounds. An endangered species native to Taiwan, the leopard cat became a mascot for the expo.
Organizers hope educational displays throughout the expo will raise awareness to the plight of the nation’s endangered plants and animals.
“We’ve forgotten that nature is important,” Huang said. “We hope that people and nature can coexist.”
With a passion for educating children, Andrew Wu (吳威龍) guided visitors through the Sustainable Homestead in Houli. The energy-efficient wooden home is a model for combating global warming, he said.
Wu said he hopes the innovative, U-shaped building will have a lasting practical and spiritual impact on visitors.
“We need to change our behavior,” said Wu, a civil engineer by trade. “We need to relook at how buildings are constructed.”
But not all attractions are meant to be taken so seriously.
Donning black and white graduation gowns, Chang Yi-yu (張禕予) and her friends posed for selfies in front of five towering replicas of Moai stone statues originally found on Easter Island. The exhibit, one of 33 in the World Gardens site, is part of an international competition of 27 countries, with the results announced at the expo’s conclusion.
“They’re so cute,” Chang said of the frowning statues.
But with less than two months before the end of the expo, organizers are hoping that people will take the opportunity to visit the sites before the gates close.
While some of the attractions will still be open to the public, many will be taken down at the expo’s conclusion in April.
“Much of this is temporary,” said Huang. “I hope people will cherish the opportunity to come.”
WHAT: Taichung World Flora Expo
WHERE: Taichung districts of Houli, Fengyuan and Waipu
WHEN: Until April 24
Admission: Tickets start at NT$350 per day for adults, with discounts for students and other groups. Admission is free for children under 12 years old and for residents of Taichung and their spouses with valid ID.
GETTING THERE: Organizers advise people to use public transportation to reach the venues.
ON THE NET: 2018floraexpo.tw (Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean)
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