Recently, I flew into Luang Prabang to spend a few days at the Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden. https://www.pha-tad-ke.com/ . This is my second trip to Laos and the garden. The first was to do research and to interview staff for my forthcoming book.
The director of the garden, Rik Gadella, and I have become friends and, since my first visit in December of 2016, have discussed ways in which I can help the garden.
So, I needed and wanted to return.
It is the end of the rainy season. The Mekong River is high, fast-flowing and muddy. Luang Prabang has not had a particularly strong wet season but it is lush and, as always, humid.
I have written about Pha Tad Ke in a previous post – https://urbanehorticulture.org/2017/01/08/i-have-been-too-busy-traveling-and-writing-to-write/ . On this most recent trip, I had time to explore the city and the garden in more detail.
Luang Prabang is in the northern and central part of Laos. It is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and is known for its many Buddhist temples, French colonial architecture, and now, the botanical garden.
There are many temples in the city. One, in particular, is particularly beautiful. Wat Xieng Thong, is at the northernmost end, at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam rivers. It is a compound of temples and shrines, and an active monastery.
The streets in this part of the city are narrow and full of plants.
As for the garden,the website https://www.pha-tad-ke.com/ has a lot of information.
The entrance to a garden, the entrance to any space, establishes the tone of the experience that is meant to follow. It is the first note of the overture that lies beyond.
A wooden longboat is moored to a jetty in the Mekong River. On the prow of the boat is a small tree in a pot. It is there to keep evil sprits away. It seems to work, since the short journey from city to garden is one of serene beauty.
Visitors disembark and climb steps to the garden, its entrance situated high above the flood waters of the “Mother of Rivers”.
In October, many of the gingers (Zingiberaceae) are in bloom.
The garden has a collection of about 200 gingers, three-fourths of which are identified. Possibly 300 species are native to Laos. Part of a new five-year plan for education and research concentrates on Zingiberaceae.
More of that in part 2.