LAOS: The Great Tree Hunt

Many centuries before a king is born, his tree bursts through the earth as a green finger.

—Laotian saying

Ever since he died last October, King Sisavang Vong has been waiting. His body, suitably embalmed with formaldehyde, crouches in a throne-shaped coffin in the Royal Palace in Luangprabang in the fetal position, for the Buddhist monks say, "As we came into this world, so we shall leave it." The dead King is dressed in his most glittering robes and wears a gem-encrusted conical crown. His gaze is turned toward the wide, murmuring Mekong River...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!