Pad Tad Ke Botanical Garden is relatively new, a work in progress that has assembled plants from all over Laos and other parts of Southeast Asia. The garden project is a privately funded non-profit supported by corporate sponsors. A visit to the garden costs around $20, which is a bit pricey for these parts. Any surplus revenue beyond operating expenses is invested in training programs for Laotian and ethnic minority farmers. Experts visit villages to help farmers understand sustainable agriculture, among other things, teaching farmers who practice slash and burn agriculture how to burn without doing lasting damage to the forest, and how to cut down trees in ways that are sustainable.
The Pad Tad Ke Botanical Garden is a fifteen minute Mekong River boat ride from Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang is known for the distinctive architecture of its buildings, and from temples to houses, there was much to catch the eye. However, while I found the city visually exciting, I know little about the history of architectural styles I saw. The designs of some buildings resembled the Lanna style that is common in Chiang Mai, about 225 miles to the southwest in Thailand. Others like the structure pictured here are rather different than anything I have seen before. Learning more about how Luang Prabang came to look like it does is a project I hope to undertake before I make a return visit.
The building in this photo, which stands out from its surroundings and caught my eye immediately, is along one of the main streets of the city, not far from the Luang Prabang Royal Palace (now a historical museum) more or less in the center of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage site. I went looking for information about this structure, but found nothing except a photo in Google Maps. In that photo the building was opened up – it appears to house a shop selling clothes on the ground level. I am not sure why it was shuttered the day I passed by. Maybe the place was closed for the low tourist season in May.
At the entrance to the Kuang Si Falls park area, there is a small wildlife preserve run by an organization called Save the Bears. The refuge is for Asian Black Bears. Poachers hunt these animals for their bile, which is an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine recipes. The bears are also threatened by deforestation, one of those environmentally unfriendly, unsustainable by-products of economic development.
The bears are playing. As best as I could tell, the bear on the left was laughing in the face of the one on the right. I was standing in a building somewhat above my subjects; the fence separating me from the bears is not visible in the picture.