He marries the lovely lass, relocates from Sweden to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand and together with his wife’s family opens up Dokmai Garden, the newest ethnobotanical and horticultural attraction in Northern Thailand. Dokmai’s Grand Opening was in Spring 2009.
The Swedish biologist’s name in question is Dr. Eric Danell, and before relocating to Thailand, he had an illustrious career as an educator and in botanical research. His field of expertise was Mycology – the study of mushrooms and other funguses.
Located about 20 minutes outside of Chiang Mai, Dokmai was developed on the grounds of a former longan plantation. The gardens, which occupy an area of 24 rai or 4 hectares, has over 500 selected tropical species including a variety of Thai natives as well as vegetables and fruits.
The New Gardens is definitely a family affair as Erik has integrated his wife and her entire family in the new ecotourism business venture – Ketsanee is the President, her sister is the marketing manager and her brother is the head gardener, while Erik’s official position is scientific consultant. Ketsanee and her family come from humble origins as rice farmers and agriculturalists in rural Northeastern Thailand.
In addition to promoting horticultural tourism, the doctor continues his research in the cultivation of mushrooms for medicinal purposes in collaboration with the University at Chiang Mai.
Eric gave me a tour of the compound and pointed out the educational aspect of the gardens. Most of the plants and trees are not only labeled with their latin and common name, but a brief profile on each species is provided - i.e. cultivation, medicinal uses and cultural history. I have visited many botanical gardens and horticultural facilities, and this is the only garden that I know of that provides such valuable background information.
Horticultural enthusiasts will find this information to be very instructive. This descriptive profile is provided not only in English but also in Thai and Japanese.
There is also wonderful restaurant on the premises – breakfast and lunch are served - as well as a gift shop where you can buy some unique Thai handicrafts in addition to literature and books on the plants of Thailand. There are even changing rooms available! Entrance fee is 300 baht.
Dokmai is a Love Affair in more ways than one.