Lao Flower / Dok Hak (Flower of Love)
Lao Music Dok Champa Lao Midi My poem

Flower of love
Dok Hak
Courtesy BounSong


Lao National Flower
Dok Champa
Courtesy Vientiane Times
(Official Website)

'Dok Hak' Story

Author: Lao Yogi (NukSeukSaLao1973)

I would like to share with you my version of the Dok Hak (Dok Huck) story. Unfortunately, I do not know the scientific name of the DH tree. The DH tree is quite similar to the fig tree, the way they branch out. One healthy and full grown DH tree can cover 5-6 yards in diameter and grow up to 6-10 feet, if properly maintained and given enough space, not over used and abused.

  • If you prune the DH tree from the top branches, it will branch out sideway and become more bushy, of course, the DH tree will also bossom more. I you maintain your DH tree this way, you will prevent it from growing too tall. Then all of your DH will be within reach and easily picked, without having to climb on it or use your bamboo pole:-).

  • When picking DH, it is best to use a small (8-10 foot) bamboo pole with a split top end. You need to split the 2-inch diameter on the top end of the bamboo pole with a knife and slice it down to about 6 inches. Then you slide a 2-inch piece of bamboo down in between the gap to lock the opening in place. You need to tie the string tightly around it so it will not come off from the gap and to prevent it from being split further. The top opening of the gap should be about 3-4 inches.

  • Now you are ready to pick, the out of reach, DH with your bamboo picking pole. You simply place the DH stem in between the 2-prong fork like, at the top of the bamboo pole. Then you push the pole upward until the DH stem reaches the bottom of the gap. Immediately, you twist the pole counterclockwise, if you are right-handed, to break the stem off from the small branch and the DH stem will be automatically trapped at the bottom of the gap. Then you slowly lower your bamboo pole to prevent the stem from coming off and falling to the ground, then you simply remove the stem of DH from the pole. Voila, you have the stem with a bunch of beautiful and aromatic Dok Huck!

The main DH tree trunk is quite strong but its branches can easily be broken and torn if you step on them, especialy by an adult. Even if you can stand on the branch to pick your DH, after you break off the stem of the DH, you still need to drop it down to the ground and the fall will likely bruise and damage your DH. Either that someone on the ground will catch it for you and the catching may also damage your DH to a certain degree. I had seen many adults got injured from falling off the delicate DH tree branches. Therefore, it is wise to use the mentioned bamboo pole, so you will always have your beautiful DH for your beautiful love one.


The Dok Huck stems and leaves are quite succulent and if you break the stem, leaf and DH, the sap will ooze out. Fortunately, the sap is not toxic or corrosive to the skin. It is not too sticky and it will not get darken when it dries out. It can also be easily washed off with plain water, unlike the sap from the mango stem. Almost every Lao house has one and more DH trees along the fences before 1975. The reason why that some people decide not to grow DH trees because they get annoyed when too many people come and ask for DH.

Lao people usually do not sell DH, they simply give them for free, especially in the villages. Lao people share mints, fruit, flowers and other things, the Lao way. There is a saying and it goes like this:"One chicken can be eaten and consumed for many years".
I remembered my Mother used to tell me to drive and deliver food to my uncle who lived about 20-30 minutes away from us or walk to my neighbor's house to give them our food. When my mother cooked something nice, she would usually like to share it with relatives, friends and neighbors.
My relatives and neighbors would do the same for us and now you know why:"One chicken can be shared and eaten for many years?". That is the Lao way and we are very, if not extremely:-), giving people and we are still the same way, after being the Lao Noark (Outside Lao) for more than 25 years. Nothing can change Lao, not the French, Japanese, American and not even the Socialist System :-).

Lao people always have a collective belief and attitude. As soon as your relatives, friends and neighbors are aware that you will be getting married. They will come in tow to offer help. Young men and ladies, especially young lovers, love to be assigned to go and pick the Dok Hak together. As soon as they finish picking the DH, they need to hurry back to the bride's house because they have to soak the DH in a cool water to keep them fresh so they will last longer. If you wait too long the sap will harden and it will prevent water from being absorbed by the DH, thus they will not stay fresh for long. In the late 60's, I had seen Lao people added "Ya Than Chai" (Thai white powder medicine that Lao people took to releive their migraine headache and it was addictive too) and its taste is sour and bitter. This medicine possibly prevents the sap from being solidified or it simply dilutes the sap, just my guest only.

My uncle used to ask me to go and pick some DH. He would put a couple of DH inside of the envelope and seal it. He simply wrote the name of a young lady on the envelope and his name on the top left corner of it. Then he asked me to hand deliver it to her. When I arrived at her house, I handed the letter over to her. I smilingly and politely asked her to open it, as I have been instructed, before I left. As soon as she saw the DH, she would smile and that was all it took to let her know that my uncle was falling in love with her, no words, just the love flower and possibly its seductive fragrance too.
Single Lao guys, please hear this, if you want to look for a Lao bride in Laos, please do not disregard the DH magic. You need to have the DH, not roses OK, in your possession first. When you like a nice lady but you cannot say it out in words, you simply hold a stem of DH in your hand and wave it at her. She will definitely get your message, loud and clear. I am pretty sure it will do the trick for you:-).

Even at school, either a young boy or girl would leave a DH on his or her desk as a way of saying that they like or fall in love with one another. Somestimes, young people simply throw stems of DH at someone they like but they are too shy to tell that person in words. Better yet, they just walk up to a person they like and say:"May I offer you the DH?". The DH is used to help breaking the ice and get your foot in the door.

I had seen DH in two different colors, one was pure white and the other was white with purple on the tip on the pedals, just like in Bounsong's picture, but they both had similar fragrance. Last summer, my family and I visited Hawaii. As I was driving along the northshore of the Ohahu island, I noticed there was DH trees inside of the fence of someone's house. Those trees were full of DH and the Hawaiian people used them for many things.

In Laos, Lao people used DH to wrap around the Lao Traditional hair bun of the bride. Not only that the DH enhanced the bride's beauty, it also gave the bride its sweet aroma so she would become beautifully aromatic. Lao people also wrapped the DH around the "Pha Kuan" for Baci. It's also called Sou Khouan (Soo-Kwan).
As you know that traditionally Lao couples get married, mostly from the month of June onward, on even months and days. This timetable also coincides with the time of the year when the DH tree blossoms. The DH bloom at night when the air is cooler and more humid and they emit a nice and unique sweet fragrance. The DH tree and DH love cool weather. It is very romantic for a young Lao couple sitting down on a bench under the DH tree at night. Perhaps, I used to do that myself:-).

There is another Lao traditional tree and flower that you need to be aware of. I am talking about the Khoune tree (fortune tree & flower)and the Dok Khoune are similar to some of the flowers of certain palm trees. A bunch of Dok Khoune are attached to strings like stems and hung downward from a branch. A Khoune tree is a strong tree and it can grow very big and it looks somewhat like an avocado tree. Lao people use Khoune leaves, when they do not have Dok Khoune, to hang outside of the front door of their houses, to welcome the big fortune. Buddhist Monks also use a bundle of Khoune leaves to sprinkle the blessing water. Mostly Lao people use Khoune leaves and flower to bless their new house with a lot of fortune, as in a house warming ceremony and party.

Not too many people understand why Lao people eat Larp, one of the important Lao staple food. As its name implies, Larb means Luck. So you see that at the wedding, Baci (Sou Khouan) and other important ceremonies, Lao people have to offer their guests wiht Larb in order to receive and bring "Luck" to their families. Therefore Dok Hak, Dok Khoune and Larb cannot be excluded from Lao Traditional Events and important occasions, at least one of them needs to be offered:-).

I have been told that there are two Khoune trees in the whole State of California (possibly the whole USA) and they are located in the city of Anaheim. They had been planted by a Lao family and they have recently sold their house to a non-Lao family. I will do my best to get to those trees in the next few weeks. I will see if I can be allowed to take pictures of them. Believe or not, Lao people are willing to pay a lot of money for just a small bundle of Khoune leaves, possibly with only a few leaves:-).

That is all I can share with you about these two precious trees at this time. If I can remember any other minor details, I will provide them to you later.

Thank you for your precious time,

Good luck and be happy!

NSS


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