Vientiane, 12 February 2013
If there is one thing that my wife and I really regretted leaving in Vienna, that was our little garden. With our last apartment we had been really lucky in getting a small roof garden. We loved that garden. My wife tended it with tender care and the summer evenings spent enveloped in flowers were magical. Of course, winters were dreary but there was always the next summer to look forward to with its new crop of flowers.
When we moved to Beijing, we guessed we would never find an apartment with even a small balcony on which to put some flower pots, at least not at prices we could afford. And so it was. We couldn’t be completely plantless so my wife bought some house plants. They give a tinge of green to the apartment, but they are meagre consolation for our roof garden in Vienna.
Imagine, then, our delight when after a seven-hour journey from cold and snowy Beijing we opened the window of our hotel in Vientiane, Laos, and we found this before us.
It was a flowering vine, thrown carelessly, or so it seemed, over the mango tree at our window. Five steps down, peering down from our common balcony we saw this, the flower of a banana tree.
I have to say that this burst of botanical colour made me feel rather light-headed, and I started rushing about the hotel’s garden snapping pictures with my phone. I show you here just a few of the photos I took:
I’ve always been fond of the colour of light through banana tree leaves …
The loveliness didn’t stop at the gates of the hotel. Walking through the streets of Vientiane was like walking though a garden, as flowering plants and trees popped up everywhere.
Even the non-flowering trees were magnificent, especially along the road skirting the Mekong River where there were huge banyan and eucalyptus trees. But the tree that took my heart is a tree called the Deer’s Ear (wonderful name …), whose leaves are going red and shedding at this time of year.
This tree is all over town, and each one has reached a different level of redness, so you go from bright green all the way to a deep vermilion. It’s rather like being in Vermont in the Fall.
As I recall, many learned men in the Middle Ages spent much time trying to pinpoint where exactly the Garden of Eden had been. For me, it’s obvious; it must have been somewhere in a tropical or subtropical country like Laos.
I suppose the damned mosquitoes were added by God afterwards as part of Adam and Eve’s punishment …