Orchid Garden combines Belizean and Taiwanese culture
As two sovereign countries, Taiwan and Belize couldn't be closer... but on the human level, Belizeans and the Taiwanese living here tend to keep out of each other's way. On some occasions, however, east does meet west, as News Five's Daedra Haylock discovered near Hattieville.
Daedra Haylock, Reporting
Jason Liao is a man of two minds. Born Taiwanese but living in Belize for seventeen years, Liao and his wife Christine are making a business of bridging the gap between the two cultures that they obviously treasure.
Jason Liao, Proprietor, Orchid Garden
"We like to show that diversity. We are new Belizeans, new Belizean diversity, cultural, and of course include the beauty of nature."
"A visit to the Orchid Garden Eco-Village introduces you first to the restaurant, which resembles many of our resorts â?" thatch-like roofing and hardwood sidings. However, there is an obvious difference."
The menu includes the well-known Belizean staples, but with an unmistakable Taiwanese influence.
Christine Liao, General Manager, Orchid Garden
"I want to train them in team work. Nobody bigger than nobody here, even myself, I am one of the team. If they need me, any time they call me I help. I don't give people the spices that are from chemicals, no. This from Asia, what I eat I give to the people."
As you sit to dine, the decor of the restaurant is an introduction to our rainforests, complete with a selection of native orchids. The furnishings are polished slabs of Mahogany that Liao has been collecting for over ten years.
"We are designed for like the first stop for tourists to come and enjoy the food, cultural history, nature from the beginning... first stop."
The Tai-Bel experience provides the common thread throughout the eco-village. There are butterfly and iguana paths and other nature trails carved out on one third of the forty acre property. The picturesque Hector Creek provides another route to enjoy what amounts to a private nature reserve.
Alfredo Dominguez, Site Manager and Tour Operator
"The difference of diversity of the trees that grows in the Pine Ridge area, for example, this plant here, this is called a "madre cacao," the people use it for building their houses. They grow as big as almost twenty-four inches in diameter for posts and if it is cut in the right moon it lasts for fifty yeas. Some people regard this as a mangrove, but this is not a mangrove, this is Buttonwood. This is, how could I put it, the leftovers of mangrove. You cut the white mangrove and the sprout is called Buttonwood. This is the sandpaper leaf we were talking about a while ago. The Mayas used it to wash their pots. Instead of using pot washer that we use now, this is what they used as a pot washer."
"It does feel like sandpaper."
"Yes, it's like sandpaper, sandpaper tree."
A walk on the trails confirms the utility of the forest, while the nature artistry museum expands on that theme to include the diversity in history and culture.
An expanded orchid garden and a collection of Carolyn Carr's paintings share a display room, while adjoining them is Belize's history in bottles," a collection from Emory King.
"This is the oldest bottle found in Belize, that's from 1670. And there're small stories and it's all part of Belize's history. This exhibition including a culture in history, that here is more Belizean from elsewhere and the teapots and here is the percussion right now, Belizean, in bottles."
"What do people learn from watching bottles?"
"Just a little history background in culture in Belize."
Belize's history may be written in bottles, but what about the two hundred rocks on display?
"This collection of rocks is from China, Taiwan, and Belize and introduces the geology of the three countries. This one, called the "Desert Rose", is said to be evidence that there were desert-like conditions in Belize long ago."
"This one is a bamboo leaf stone. The design in nature is like a bamboo leaf. It's a wonderful beauty from mother nature. It's really wonderful. And this one, I name it "Hair Transplant" because it looks like a hair transplant, it's nature's colour."
A diversity of environment and culture, that's the message found at mile fourteen on the Western Highway. I am Daedra Haylock for News Five.