by Tao Jun, Dong Hua
HO CHI MINH CITY, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Central Highlands region is not only a coffee hub of Vietnam, but also the home to the country's first and only orchid conservation center, which currently holds three national records.
Less than 12 km from Buon Me Thuot, the capital city of Central Highlands Dak Lak province, lies the Trohbu Botanic Garden, the first and only orchid conservation center in Vietnam.
In the language of the Ede ethnic group, Trohbu means "a valley of snakehead fish." In the past, this wild land was full of snakefish during the rainy season.
In late October, only a small number of around 10,000 wild orchids in the privately-owned garden are in bloom, but it is still colorful and fragrant enough to lure many Vietnamese and foreign visitors.
"I like Singapore's National Orchid Garden very much, but I am really impressed by this private garden in Vietnam," a young Italian tourist named Beatrice told Xinhua recently.
"The Singaporean garden is better landscaped, but smaller, and mainly displays hybrid orchids, while the Vietnamese garden is full of forest orchids," she said, pointing to a bush of white and pink bamboo orchids in full bloom.
"As far as I know, there are only four species of bamboo orchids in the world, and some 200 bamboo orchid plants across Singapore, but I have seen many here," the young woman said, still failing to take her eyes off the gorgeous pink blooms.
She was surrounded not only by short bushes of bamboo orchids, but also by other species of orchid hanging from high trees. Some orchids looked like white cranes or violet tails of foxes, and others resembled standing dancers or perching butterflies.
"At present, my garden has more than 10,000 orchids spanning 250 species. I am trying to double the number of orchid species here," Do Tuan Hung, the owner of the Trohbu Botanic Garden in Buon Don district, told Xinhua, noting that Vietnam has a total of some 750 orchid species.
Hung, 46, who is the office manager of the Dak Lak Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said he had sold his coffee plantation, poured some 1.5 billion Vietnamese dong (65,000 U.S. dollars) into buying five hectares of barren land in 1995, and planted tens of thousands of trees.
He had made numerous trips to jungles and mountains nationwide to find wild orchids to eventually turn the plot of land into a colorful botanical garden, he said.
"As a young man, I worked in the forestry sector and visited many forests. Realizing that forests with replete with beautiful flowers, especially orchids, but were being damaged by illegal loggers and local residents who engaged in slash-and-burn agriculture, I decided to do something to preserve the forest orchids," he explained.
"Now, my garden is the only orchid conservation center in Vietnam," the grey-haired man said proudly.
According to Hung, his garden houses a dozen extremely rare species of orchids, so the plants are sometimes stolen.
"Regarding the rare orchids, people sell them according to the length of their trunks calculated in centimeters. Each centimeter is worth hundreds of U.S. dollars," he stated.
With its many species of orchids, the Trohbu Botanic Garden was recognized in 2017 by the Vietnam Guinness Book of Records as Vietnam's biggest wild orchid collection.
In additional to forest orchids and some other species of flowers, the garden houses two special items, which also made national records in 2017. They are Vietnam's largest dugout canoe and an ancient stone gong with the biggest number of bars.
The dugout canoe is 9 m long, 1.75 m wide and 1.2 m high. It took a local artisan six months to make it. The dugout canoe is made from a very old and large valuable tree named Hopea.
Before selling the giant dugout canoe to Hung, the artisan sometimes lent it to Yok Don National Park in Dak Lak. The national park used the dugout canoe to transport construction materials, at least one ton of cement per shipment, across the Serepok River, to build forest stations.
Hung has placed two sets of stone gongs with a total of 40 bars in his garden. The bigger set has 23 bars of pristine natural stone with widths ranging from 0.6 m to 1.5 m. Visitors can play the stone gongs by themselves to enjoy the unique sound of a distinctive musical instrument used by ethnic groups in the Central Highlands region.
"I have visited many spectacular places of interest in the Central Highlands region, so I feel that the Trohbu Botanic Garden is a microcosm of the stunning region, reflecting the beauty of both the nature and people here," Phan The Phuong, a driving instructor from the capital city of Hanoi, told Xinhua, while he was inquisitively playing the big set of stone gongs under the sunlight.
According to Hung's estimation, his garden will receive some 10,000 Vietnamese and foreign visitors this year, up 70-80 percent compared with last year.
"I will keep on seeking wild orchids to conserve them, otherwise some may become extinct. They beautify not only nature but also our life," he said, while spraying water on a cluster of ringed orchids, whose flowers resembled flying egrets.