The beautiful, bizarre Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens
If Thailand’s city of sin isn’t quite the thing for you, don’t be in a hurry to leave just yet, because there might be something nearby that is!
About a half-hour drive away from Pattaya beach is the Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens, which is one of the biggest botanical gardens in Southeast Asia. Nong Nooch is actually a private garden that was meant to be a fruit plantation when the land was first purchased in 1954, but the owner, Mrs. Nongnooch Tansacha became inspired by other botanical gardens after traveling the world, and decided to have one of her own on her newly-purchased land instead. The Nong Nooch Gardens opened to the public in 1980, and has now become a popular tourist attraction managed by Mrs. Tansacha’s son, Mr. Kampon Tansacha.
It’s pretty easy to get to Nong Nooch – you can either hop on a song theaw (a van ferrying a whole bunch of people around), or follow the path of least resistance and join one of the tours that every other shop along the Pattaya beachfront will offer. I chose a half-day tour + transportation package for 700 baht, which wasn’t too bad because entrance to the gardens itself already costs 600 baht.
Nong Nooch is a HUUUUUUUGE garden with different themed gardens inside, and this nifty walkway will take you through most of the highlights. If you’re big on botany and nature, you could easily spend a whole day wandering around the gardens – I think with the half day tour, I only saw about half the things that were inside the park!
So yes. Nong Nooch is a really, really beautiful place… albeit slightly baffling. But you’re in Thailand, so really, you shouldn’t expect anything less of the Thais ;)
Why baffling, you ask? Well, one of the first things you’ll see if you follow the skywalk is…
… this Ant Tower, because… uhh… because I don’t know, but look! Giant ants!
Follow the skywalk further, and you’ll come to…
… a car showroom, where Mr. Tansacha proudly displays all the weird and wonderful cars he owns! Besides the muscle cars in the picture above, there are some less orthodox vehicles, like these…
Because you KNOW a guy like him has to find a way to spend all that cash he must be literally rolling around in every day :P
Adding to the list of things that will make you go “…but why?” are the random herds of animals you’ll notice scattered throughout the park;
Because last I checked, penguins were definitely not fans of the tropics :P
But all weirdness will (almost) be forgotten when you arrive at the crown jewel of Nong Nooch:
The gorgeoussss French Garden! This is the image of Nong Nooch that you’ll be seeing all over the tour brochures in Pattaya :P
Not sure what Thai-style pagodas are doing in a French garden, but they sure are pretty!
And right next to the French garden is another eccentricity – a recreation of Stonehenge!
Yeahh, can’t tell you why it’s there either.
Some of the other themed gardens I managed to see there included;
The Jurassic Park-ish Cycad Garden, apparently the largest collection of cycads in the world;
The Rock Garden, because every garden needs some neatly arranged spherical boulders;
The Heart Garden (no prizes for guessing why);
The Bonsai Garden (miniature old trees FTW!);
The Topiary Garden, which was right next to another one of my favourite places in Nong Nooch…
… the European Garden! (Not to be confused with the French Garden, because French gardens clearly aren’t European gardens…. :P)
A little further away from the European Gardens, you’ll also find the Cactus Garden;
I was wondering if I was looking at a new species of cacti until I noticed these 2 ladies hand-painting the needles!
Another one of the gardens I loved in Nong Nooch was the Floating Oasis, a cluster of neatly manicured shrubbery on pontoons, out on a lake!
You can paddle around the lake in one of these boats if you want;
Or you could take your turn at contributing to the waistlines of the giant arapaima fish in the lake!
The last “garden” that you’ll come to (if you take the half-day tour) is Butterfly Hill, which is right next to Nong Nooch’s visitor centre.
Here, you can find a couple of restaurants, rest rooms and souvenir shops, as well as the stages for a Thai cultural show and an elephant show that run about 4 times a day. The tickets for your shows will most likely already have been included in your Nong Nooch, but I skipped the Thai cultural show to explore more of the garden as I’d already seen plenty of those during my previous Thailand trips anyway.
Baby elephants are <3
Nong Nooch turned out to be one of my Pattaya favourites despite the slightly steep prices, and if you’re weird like me, it might be for you too ;) Do check it out if you’re looking for somewhere chill to get lost and take loads of pictures – you can even stay there if you want to!