Discover Luang Prabang

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Saturday, January 5, 2019

Pha Tad Ke: A Dutchman's Faszination with Ethno-Botanism in Luang Prabang

See the locations on Luang Prabang Google Map by #treasuresoflaos

Orchid nursery, Picture by marhas

There are more than 1,200 different plant species, arranged in sections such as the ginger garden, ethno-botanic garden, palm garden, bamboo garden, organic and educational garden: Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden is a new attraction a 10- to 20-minute boat ride down the Mekong River, around 2km from Luang Prabang, opened in 2017.

Scenic outlook from Pha Tad Ke Botanical garden   Picture by marhas

Rik Gadella, the general manager of Pha Tad Ke, had no knowledge of botanism, before he started this adventure. The Dutch national was organizing art exhibitions and publishing art books in Paris and New York for 25 years, before he flew to Luang Prabang for a short holiday 11 years ago. He fell in love with Laos and looked for a plot of land to build a small house. By chance he found the Pha Tad Ke site, named after the nearby mountain, which name in Lao means "the mountain to unite and resolve". This was the place, where the former viceroy of Laos used to go hunting. Rik Gadella found Laotian partners, who bought the area and leased it to him.

Waterlily-pond   Picture by marhas

Gadella sold his publishing company and borrowed some money from an uncle to realize his collection of indigenous plant species. “Everything we have here we had to collect ourselves. We have concentrated on the flora of Laos, our plants are used every day by Lao people”, he told the South China Morning Post. Gadella and his team collaborated with the National University of Laos, the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden in Chiang Mai (Thailand), the Singapore Botanic Garden and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh in planning the Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden.

Bamboo along the way   Picture by marhas

He recounts that there were no plant nurserys in Laos and little research on ethno-botany, when he started his project, little research about the use of plants for medicine, food and handicrafts by the many ethnic minority groups living in Laos. "Eighty percent of the Lao population live in the mountains, lots of them with no real access to modern medicine so they are still using these plants," Gadella told Nikkei Asian Review. In Laos this knowledge is passed from mouth to mouth. The team of Pha Tad Ke Botanical garden did a lot of field trips, collecting plants and ethno-botanical data and is now showing it to its visitors, who can even find a section of plants said to placate spirits or medical plants for elephants. Rik Gadella plans to do research more on the efficacy of the plants. He would like to know how much of traditional healing is based on shamanistic rituals and how much on the plants.

Learn about rice plants and their use for elephants   Picture by marhas

Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden specializes on limestone botany and offers also a limestone habitat and a cave. Laos has some of the last remaining intact areas of limestone karst in the world. Gadella is now collecting funds for the next development: a mist house for orchids, a herbarium, better nurseries, a rice field and a research and training center.

Picture by marhas

The entry fee for Pha Tad Ke Botanical garden is 25 US-Dollars for foreigners and 10 Dollars for locals. The boat trip from Luang Prabang is included.

See mor pictures of Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden on Instagram.

Follow Rik Gadella on Facebook.

Discover more:
Your Guide in Luang Prabang

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

From Silk to Art: Shops and Galleries in Luang Prabang

See the locations on Luang Prabang Google Map by #treasuresoflaos and get the kmz-file for Google Earth.

Luang Prabang is "the best place in Laos to find the country’s remarkable textile treasures" according to

Anakha (The Blue House): Anakha fuses French design with elegant Laotian and Indochina textiles. Founder Veronique Cottereau-PravinAnakha is inspired by her creative designer love of hand-made textiles, nurtured while living in Vietnam for many years. The house was built in late 1920’s by Maohui Yun, who was born in Hainan (China). After living in Hanoi, Vietnam, he went to Lao after the First World War. Inspired by the colonial style that he observed in Hanoi, he built this French style house in Luang Prabang. A flux of people from Hainan, young or old, followed his steps later. They stayed at the house until they found places to live.

Galerie Asiama:
Alain Menoni presents antiques, ethnic objects and curiosities mainly from the Asian continent. Linda S. McIntosh has brought together textile collections from South East Asia and neighboring countries. See Asiama on Facebook.

Camacrafts: Above JoMa Bakery. Handicrafts from Hmong and Lao village women.

Lifescene wallhanging from Camacrafts. The Lifescene contains images of Hmong and Lao life that are embroidered onto “story cloth”. Each wallhanging is a unique original. There are no patterns. The artists stich the scenes from their life experience.

Caruso Lao: Sakarine Road. Caruso Lao's carvers, turners, silversmiths and weavers transform the natural treasures of Laos into handcrafted furnishings and fashion accessories.

Fibre2Fabric Gallery: Fibre2Fabric Gallery is a non-profit exhibition space in Luang Prabang dedicated to documenting and exhibiting textiles from the Lao Textile Heritage Collection.

Kopnoi: Near l'étranger books and tea and on Sisavangvong Street in front of primary school. Eco-dyed cotton apparel collection for men, women & kids. Also silk apparel & accessories, designer jewelry, spices and delicacies.

Naga Creations: Handmade jewelry from silver and gem stones.

Ock Pop Tok. Ock Pop Tok is the Lao translation for east meets west: Laotian weaver Veomanee Duangdala and English photographer Joanna Smith have set up the company to promote Lao textiles. Today Ock Pop Tok works together with around 500 women in villages in Laos. Their main center lies outside the old town at the Mekong River. You can visit the flagship store, the textile production, classes in weaving and dying and have a meal at their Silk Road Cafe. Exhibitions are shown at the Fibre2Fabric gallery. They even have a guesthouse at the centre where you can stay, The Mekong Villa. On the main road in Luang Prabang you find the Boutique shop and the Ock Pop Tok Heritage shop with articles from the Village all over Laos.

Ma Te Sai: Sisavangvong Road. This shop is about ethnic handicrafts. You get souvenirs made from bamboo, fabric, recycled paper and other natural materials. Herbal tea, coffee, local whiskey and rice can be found here as well.

Passa Paa Boutique & Textile Studio: Heather Smith, managing a textile design studio in London UK, saw the opportunity to mix two worlds and develop textiles that could provide a sustainable market for the skills of Hmong artisans. In 2016 Heather teamed up with her long time friend Hongkham Xiong ‘Pok’, a local Lao/Hmong entrepreneur and Hmong craft enthusiast, and together they have evolved Passa Paa into a thriving studio team of in-house makers where they work in collaboration with a number of Hmong families within Luang Prabang province. Passa Paa is a textile studio that merges traditional Hmong handicraft skills with a modern print aesthetic.

Queen Design Lao: Hand-woven linen, silk and cotton dresses, skirts. Beside pashminas and scarves, organic face scrubs and wood glasses are sold here.

Samsara Restaurant & Gallery:

Satri Lao: Sisavangvong Road. Silks, jewellery, home furnishing.

Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (Taec): The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre works together with over 600 handicraft producers. They are dedicated to the collection, preservation, and interpretation of the traditional arts and lifestyles of the diverse ethnic groups of Laos. Le Patio Café is part of the centre. They have another shop at Sakkaline Road.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Between heaven and earth: The Temples in Luang Prabang

See the locations on Luang Prabang Google Map

Picture by marhas

About the details of Luang Prabangs most important temples you can read at, which has a lot of pictures.

See the locations on Google Earth.

Until the beginning of the twentieth century all buildings in Luang Prabang were made of wood. The only exception: The temples were built of bricks and mortar. Today only three - Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Pak Khane and Wat Khili - have retained their original structure and decoration. Read more background here.

Each monastery in Luang Prabang is demarcated by a peripheral masonry wall. Doors in the form of prasat - a small, square, tiered and crowned tower, perforated on opposite sides by two large arched bays connected by a continuous passageway allow access to the sanctuary and its building annexes.

Almost always confined to the northern part of the viharn is a building without walls and sometimes on stilts. By token of the shape of its roofing, it resembles a plain sanctuary which is used as a shelter for the pagoda’s great drum. Like the gong, the drum is used for the call to prayers as well as to announce holy days, to mark important events like the Laotian New Year, village festivities, bereavements and festivals. The drum is made from a single piece of tree trunk of about 1 meter in diameter. It is hollowed out and covered at both ends with taut cowhide.

The temples of Luang Prabang are characterized by immense two- or even three-layered roofs covered with flat tiles, sometimes with a change of roof gradient. Another characteristic is the existence of a peripheral nave.

Roof ornamentation, which is very varied in Luang Prabang, is overall characterized by horned ridge-tiles portraying a naga’s upper torso; these may be richly decorated or sometimes reduced to a simple schematic contour. A medial spike, often with three, seven or nine small prasat rises from the top. Depending on the number of spikes, the prasat represent Mount Sinew (the most important mountain in the Buddhist cosmology, with seven annular chains on either side.

Haw Pha Bang: Also: Ho Pha Bang. The Chapel of the Royal Palace, built from 1963 to 1993, lies in the northeastern corner of the ground of the Royal Palace. It has been constructed as the home for the Pha Bang. This is a golden statue (83 cm tall) brought to Luang Prabang in 1359. Then the Khmer king gave the Pha Bang to his son-in-law, the first Lang Xang king Fa Ngum. Read more details an

This altar is intended to hold the Pha Bang.

More pictures by

Wat Xieng Thong: The "feast for the eyes and the soul" has been built around 1560 by King Setthathirat. It is one of the most important monasteries in Laos. The Lao kings have been coronated here and it was the center of numerous annual festivals honoring the Buddha and various folk spirits. During the 1960s it has been renovated and redecorated. The roof was repaired. The entrance was gilded. The interior and the exterior walls were covered with black, glossy lacquer and decorated with figures and symbols in gold leaf. On the back wall a large flame tree, a tree of life, was set in colored glass mosaics. So it became the temple we admire today.

Where the guests used to arrive from the water way: Stairs leading from the Mekong up to Wat Xieng Thong.

The sim (temple hall): The exterior and the interior are decorated by a rich grandeur. The stenciling on the façade recounts scenes from the jataka and shows images of the punishment of evil-doers. Read a detailed description on

The "Dok so fa" with seventeen elements. The more elements this decoration on top of the roof has, the more important is the monastery.

The Tripitaka Library: This chapel from 1828 has many names: Haw Kawng, Haw Trai or Hor Tai. Here the Tripitaka, the 'three baskets' of the Theravada Buddhist canon of scriptures, were stored. Outside colorful glass mosaics show scenes of local life and traditions. Read a detailed description on

Picture by marhas

The Red Chapel (Haw Tai Pha Sai-Nyaat): On the outside you see a red stucco inlaid with glass mosaics that illustrate religious and everyday life. The mosaics were added during the restoration in 1957. The original date of the construction of the chapel is not known. The bronze reclining Buddha inside, dating from the 16th century, is one of the most valuable of Lao Buddhist images (see picture). Read more details on See also a picture taken in 1973 by Gert Holmertz.

Picture by marhas
The flame tree, the tree of life in mosaic, you find on the back of the sim.

The Carriage House (Hóhng Kép Mien or Hor Latsalat): Built 1962 it contains the funeral chariot of King Sisavang Vong (1885-1959), King of Luang Prabang, 1904-46, and King of Laos, 1946-59. The sculpted and gilded teakwood panels on the exterior show the Lao version of the Ramayana, the Pha Lak Pha Lam. Read more on See also this foto taken 2001 by Gert Holmertz.

Seven nagas dominate the royal chariot. It was used to carry the remains of King Sisavang Vong to the field near Wat That Luang for his cremation in April 1961. There are three ornate gilded sandlewood urns, that contained the remains of the king's father (in front) and mother (in the rear); Sisavang Vong's remains are given the central place of honor under the canopy. Read more on

Wat Siri Moung Khoung: Also: Wat Si Muang Khun. It has been built in the 18th century.

The Sim of Wat Siri Moung Khoung.

He looks quite wild.

Wat Sop Sickharam: Right next to Wat Sensoukharam. It has been built by King Theng Kham (1479-86).

Wat Sensoukharam: Also: Wat Sene. Sakkarine Road. Built in 1714, surrounded by 11 small stupas.

Wat Sensoukharam has richly decorated windows, on both side you see apsaras standing on beasts. See more picturey on

Wat Mai Souvannaphoumaham: Sisavangvong Road. Across from the Royal Palace, the biggest Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang. Its name means "The new monastery of the golden land". It has been constriucted 1796-1797 by King Anourout. King Manthatourat (1817-1836) has renovated it. During Pimay, the Laotian new year, the Phra Bang is exposed in the temple for three days and the people from Laos come to splash water onto the holy statue for the ceremonial cleansing. Outstanding are the walls of the front verandah. They show scenes from the Ramayana and Buddha's penultimate incarnation. Lacquered columns that are elaborately stenciled. It served as a temple for the royal family and has been the residence of the Pra Sangkharat, the highest Laotian Buddhist dignitary, for longtime. Read more at

Gold facade with the central door. Nak Naga figures join the colums to the roof.

Gilded stucco near the entrance.

Stupa and chapels.

Picture by Lorna87. And see also the picture by

Wat Hosiang: Also called Wat Hosian and Wat Hoxian. Adjoining to Wat That. Ho Siang was founded by Khouane Sene Muxa in 1705 or early 1706. The wat was destroyed by a storm in 1900 and rebuilt. The octagonal pillars and the verandas on the northeast and southwest sides of the sim were added in 1952. More details on

See pictures by and by and wallpaintings by Dany and Maryse

Wat Mahathat: Also: Wat Pha Mahathat or Wat Si Mahatat. Founded by King Say Setthathirath in 1548. The sim collapsed during a storm in 1900 and was rebuilt between 1907 and 1910. Here are also the ashes of the revered Prince Phetsarath, who declared Laos independent in 1945, and Prince Souvanna Phouma, his younger half-brother, who served as prime minister and sought to retain Lao independence in negotiations with the Pathet Lao. More details on orientalarchitecture.comWat Phra Mahathat is one of the most important places in Luang Prabang for the celebration of the Lao New Year. On the third day of Phimai (the day when the deity of the year arrives), the abbots of Wat May, Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Aham and Wat Wisun arrive in a solemn procession to attend a sacred dance of the town's guardian spirits, Phou Nheu and Nha Nheu.

The stairway from Fa Ngum Road shows Thai influence. It reminds of the stairway to Wat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai.

Picture by Viv and Matt's Travels

See pictures by and by

Wat Aham: This means „The temple of the flourishing heart“, it has been built at the beginning of the ninetenth century and is a centre of meditation.

Entrance to Wat Aham, picture by Hanoi Mark. See more pictures by davieshongkong. See also Banyan Tree and Wat Aham, picture by Esther Kalandjai. And more details by

Wat Pha Phon Phao:

Picture by Hanoi Mark

Wat Wisunarat: The oldest operating temple in Luang Prabang is also called Wat Visounnalat or Wat Visounlalat. Visoulalat is the name of the King who built it in 874 of Burmese calendar, which is 1512 in international calender. After a fire 1887 set by the black bandits it has been rebuilt from 1896 to 1898. In front of the temple you find the Makmo stupa. It looked like the half shape of the watermelon, so it was called That Makmo. In the temple you see the 835 years old Lao Manuscript, six stones with writing in Lao an Dharma Language. read more.

Jade Buddha at Wat Wisnunarat, pictures by Kleinmatt66

That Makmo (Watermelon Stupa), picture by Kleinmatt66

Wat Saen: Picture by Esther Kalandjai

Santi Chedi This place has many names: Wat Phol Phao, Wat Phom Phao or Wat Phra That Khong Santi Chedi. It lies on top of a hill, from where you have a good view over Luang Prabang. The stupa has been completed in 1988. Inside you find heavenly and apocalyptic paintings.

Picture by annamatic3000. See also pictury by and frescoes inside by

Wat Long Khun: Before Lao kings were coronated, they spent three days in this wat. See pictures by and by

Pictures by 5 mois de voyage en asie du Sud Est

Wat Nong Sikhounmuang: It has one of the biggest pagodas in Luang Prabang. It has been constructed in the style of vientiane.

Picture by

See pictures by Mai An Hoa, by Alain Travels.

Wat Sen in Luang Prabang, picture by