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...

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