Wild orchid walhalla in Chiang Dao

Kurt Keller, expert in wild orchids of Southeast Asia. That’s about all I knew of him when I showed up unannounced at his place, one afternoon in December. A few hours later all the gaps in information were filled. The Swiss generously gave me a ‘grand tour’ of his collection of about 2,500 plants, tucked away in the garden of the cosy resort he runs with his Thai wife Malee.
The whole place is strewn with orchids; in trees, in pots and in the ground. But the largest collection is concentrated in his shade house, where he has labelled each orchid with name, date and place of origin, such as Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia or Thailand.
Being educated in scientific photography, it is not surprising that Kurt Keller’s pictures are of a rare beauty and have a high degree of precision. In his studio he treated me on a beautiful video of his plants, appearing in alphabetical order.

Malee’s Nature Lovers Bungalows, as the resort is called, is situated at the foot of the massive mountains of Chiang Dao in the north of Thailand. Keller often roams the hills and forests, searching for plants, or just plainly enjoying nature. But there he also exploits another expertise: cartography. He meticulously notes the trails, a great help for his hiking guests.

December 2020, by Karolien Bais


Thailand is gifted with many gardening geeks, plant collectors and specialized nurseries. It’s a pleasure to explore these gardens, and, with some luck, have a chat with the owner. Although my Thai is totally insufficient, we somehow always get down to some ‘plant talk’.