Tag Archives: garden

Vandara’s Lao organic food garden

Vandara 2

Vandara holding edible torch ginger flower in her garden

Vandara Amphaiphone is an amazing woman and a Luang Prabang institution who’s creativity and holistic life approach imbues all she does: weaver, culinary expert, guesthouse owner, mentor and organic gardener.  I met Vandara in print in 2005 but it took until 2011 for me to meet her in person at the opening of a photography exhibition at Project Space in Luang Prabang. Vandara  co-authored “Food and Travel Laos”, the first English language Lao cookbook published in Thailand. Now out of print, the Thai edition is still available. She also gives cooking classes at her guest house using her own organic produce.

I was delighted when Vandara suggested that we come to her riverside guest house and have a big cooking/sharing session as we’d both heard of each other and were very excited to get together. I didn’t know about Vandara’s magnificent organic garden so in the morning Kees and I took off to the local market to get vegetables, herbs and meat – which later of course we found out that Vandara had in abundance! But it was fun in the market. What Kees did not realise was that Vandara was actually at the market buying padek fish. I only found out when I was going through his market photos as I did not see her myself.

Vandara with fish

Vandara buying padek fish at the Luang Prabang market

Rapids at Vanvisa 2

Rapids at Vanvisa 2 by the dining sala

We were picked up in town by Vandara in a tuk tuk and made our way to her guest house/ home stay, “Vanvisa at the Falls“, on a river outlet of the Kuang Si Falls. The water was raging when we arrived as it was the rainy season, with water swirling a footstep from where we had our amazing dinner that night. Vanvisa is set in Vandara’s local Khamu village, and she has spent years planting what seems a wild jungle paradise crammed with food-bearing and traditional medicinal plants and trees. Its an ongoing passion – we shared our tuk tuk with bags of cuttings and plants on the way out and stopped off at Vandara’s bigger garden (if you can imagine such a thing) to pick up sweet bamboo.

Sweet bamboo

Sweet bamboo from the big garden, destined for a Buddhist ceremony in Vientiane

The garden is absolutely not in straight rows, everything grows in association with other plants and trees creating little ecosystems. It was hard to walk anywhere because even the ground cover was edible! Not being a botanist or avid gardener I just knew that there was a wealth of expertise and precious species behind this seeming wilderness and I will certainly be taking more time to learn and explore in future.

_MG_9104

Colourful produce from Vandara's garden

Meanwhile, if you are into food and wild organic gardens and a real Lao experience you MUST visit this place and meet Vandara.

Hand crafted bed

Don’t expect a three star or above hotel experience, this place is basic but so creatively authentic – even the beds, toilet roll holders and shelves are made on site using local bamboo! And the passion fruit juice is freshly made with local honey.

_MG_9099

Vandara picking butterfly pea flowers for her salad

_MG_9095

Building with bamboo on site

Vandara dyeing

Vandara dyeing yarn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are some photos of vegetables in the garden, but there are many more – papaya, basils, pennywort, avocados, many types of eggplants, plants for dyeing, gingers, galangal, taro etc.

_MG_9078

Sawtooth herb

_MG_9117

Unripe passionfruit

_MG_9116

Freshly picked salad ingredients

_MG_9084

Holy basil with strong cloves taste

_MG_9083

Vietnamese mint

Ginsing

Ginsing leaves and flowers

Perilla

Perilla - phak meng kheng

Avocado

Avocados from Vandara's garden - HUGE - note her hand in the background!