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Luang Prabang’s Garden of Eden

Luang Prabang’s Garden of Eden

Luang Prabang has everything the thinking tourist could want – splendid temples, unique culture, wonderful people and extraordinary natural beauty.

This gracious town now puts on display Laos’ fabulous flora. After seven years of planning, researching, collecting and planting, the recently opened Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden, the first ever in this landlocked country, is another reason to visit this World Heritage Site.

 

Northern Laos is a natural paradise of green mountains, stunning cliffs and mighty rivers, and is a favourite of trekkers and travellers, whether on foot or on wheels. But few people know that Laos is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet – an essential asset to the future of our earth. This means there are more different species of plants here than in most places. 

Much of this rich natural treasure remains untouched and inaccessible. But now, over fourteen hectares of riverside land, travellers can see first-hand what those deep forested valleys hold. Visitors can follow paths winding through gardens of ginger and palms, bamboo and orchids, arranged around a massive rocky cliff overlooking the north-western side of the Mekong River.

The centrepiece is the special garden of medicinal and culinary plants, where you can learn more of the traditional lore associated with an incredible variety of flora. More than simply beautiful, the medicinal gardens give insights into the traditional knowledge of generations of Lao ethnic groups about the culinary, medicinal, spiritual and decorative uses of myriad different plants.  This knowledge has been handed down from the elders, but always orally and never written. So it is now in danger of being lost if a careful process of collecting, cataloguing and recording is not undertaken.

 

Pha Tad Ke staff have been busy doing just that for years already, travelling to remote areas, talking with villagers, collecting samples and carefully growing new specimens for study and display. Eventually the garden will include a research centre to continue the work of finding out more of nature’s secrets from these plants.

Meanwhile, dried specimens are being carefully collected and stored in a herbarium, which will serve as a permanent collection of the extraordinary diversity found here.

Located across the Mekong River from the southern outskirts of Luang Prabang, the land on which the gardens are built was once the private retreat of the royal family. A visit to Pad Thad Ke begins at the Reception Centre on the river road in town, where you will board the boat for a relaxing 15-minute ride across the swirling mud-brown waters.

At the garden, visitors follow wide paths around the various plantings, complete with informative signage, ponds full of water lilies, and eventually settle down for a very special meal in the cafe located by extensive pools of blooming lotus flowers.

More than a simple picnic, the restaurant lunch is a chance to savour delicious and innovative fresh food based on traditional Lao cuisine and designed by a Lao chef who has been delighting diners in the US.  All ingredients are sourced from the lush countryside around Luang Prabang. 

Pha Tad Ke staff have already been active teaching in local schools about organic gardening, encouraging projects by young Lao people to showcase local culture and organising creative photography training and competitions, among other programs.

There will also be a focus on local handicrafts and produce with a range of quality products, including educational Pa Thad Ke publications, on sale in the shop. There will be opportunities to learn more about these crafts in how-to classes with local artisans who work with natural, plant-based products.

 

Pha Tad Ke staff have already been active teaching in local schools about organic gardening, encouraging projects by young Lao people to showcase local culture and organising creative photography training and competitions, among other programs.

There will also be a focus on local handicrafts and produce with a range of quality products, including educational Pa Thad Ke publications, on sale in the shop. There will be opportunities to learn more about these crafts in how-to classes with local artisans who work with natural, plant-based products.   

So do yourself, and Mother Nature, a favour and book now for your day at the Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden--- the perfect complement to your stay in this delightful part of Laos.

Open: 8 am-6 pm  (Every day except Wednesday)

 Getting There

Located 15 minutes, by boat, from Luang Prabang. To access the garden visitors can catch a boat from downtown reception in Ban Wat That.

 www.pha-tad-ke.com

 

Text by: Suzy Young
Photos by: Pha Tad Kae Botanical Garden

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